Monday, April 26, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

Valerie, a fellow blogger who I like more than anyone I've never met before, generously presented me with this blog award and instructions to share 7 things about myself. Thank you, Valerie! Like Valerie's daughter said on her blog, the seven things don't necessarily have to be interesting (even though Valerie's were) so here we go:

1. I adore daffodils. I am amazed at how the sight of a daffodil transports me to the best place in my childhood, every time.

2. I love animals - even bugs, yet I have a pervasive and totally irrational fear that I will be eaten by a shark one day :/

3. I cry harder at movies and commercials than I ever cry about real life - embarrassing, hiccuping, gulping sobs. I have had to forfeit my $8 seat at the movies more than once.

4. I think I'm hilarious. I'm not sure how many people share that opinion, but I crack myself up all the time :D

5. I find it extraordinarily frustrating that I will never learn all there is to learn

6. My older sister is quite possibly the coolest person I know

7. Sometimes I have dreams that I can breath under water and they are so convincing that it takes several minutes of self-questioning after I wake up in order for me to believe that I really can't and shouldn't try :)

I plan to pass this award on to Morgan for her blog Ordinary? Why, Nothing is Ordinary. You can't be around Morgan without having a greater appreciation for life and I enjoy her blog.

Thanks again, Valerie!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vegan/Non-Dairy Ranch Dressing

There are only a few things that I REALLY missed when I went vegan and ranch was one of them. I don't know if it's a family thing or if it's just because I have spent so much of my life in Utah, but I love ranch dressing. I have tried several vegan ranch recipe's over the past few years and this one is definitely my top pick:

Vegan/Non-Dairy Ranch Dressing
1 Cup Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise)
1 Cup Silken Tofu
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Onion Powder
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
2 Tbs. Parsley (chopped fresh or dried flakes)
1/4 Cup Soy or Almond Milk
*Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator.
**If you prefer a smoother texture, you can substitue 1 Cup of Tofutti sour cream in place of the silken tofu

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cold Pressed Homemade Bar Soap

I just started using a bar from my first batch of cold pressed homemade bar soap. It's been quite awhile since I've used "regular" store-bought soap to compare it to, but it lathers as well as my liquid castile soap. The scent is pretty boring - next time I will add some essential oils. Here is the recipe that I used if anyone is interested in giving it a try. Before batching, please refer to the safety tips at the bottom of this post.

The supplies you will need for making bar soap include:
  • Food or postal scale
  • Candy thermometer
  • Pot (for oil/soap mixture)
  • Heat resistant glass jar or pot (for lye/water solution)
  • Soap mold (storebought or ANY kind of non-metalic container)
  • Rubber scraper or wooden spoons (I used a wooden paint stirrer that I got for free at the hardware store)
  • Safety goggles, gloves, and other desired (apron, surgical mask, etc.)

Homemade Cold Press Bar Soap
Lye solution:
  • 6 ounces sodium hydroxide lye crystals
  • 12.5 ounces cold water

*Slowly add the lye crystals to the cold water (NEVER the other way around). Set it aside in a safe place away from kids and animals and allow it to cool to a temperature of 100-120 degree's F.

Oil mixture:

  • 12 ounces Coconut Oil
  • 12 ounces Olive Oil
  • 9 ounces Canola or Soybean Oil
  • 8 ounces Palm Oil

*Carefully weigh solid oils in a pot and stir/heat over stove just until melted. Add the carefully weighed liquid oils. Allow the oils to cool to 100 degree's F before adding lye solution.

Carefully add the lye solution to the oil mixture. The oils will turn cloudy right away. Stir until lye solution and oils are blended. Using short bursts (less than 1 minute at a time), use the stick blender to mix the soap until it reaches trace.

To see if the soap has reached trace, pull the stick blender straight out and watch for beads of the solution to drip back into the pot. If the beads are very slow to drip (or they don't drip at all), you've reached trace (I know it doesn't sound helpful now, but you will know it when you see it!). If you continue mixing beyond this point, the oils will start to separate from the soap mixture.

Pour the soap into a mold (anything but metal or aluminum). For my soap, I pulled a greeting card box out of my recyling. Put the soap in a safe place away from children and animals and allow it to set. After 24 hours, pull the soap out and cut it (it is still very soft at this stage and it's easier to cut and there is less waste than if you wait the 3-4 weeks for the soap to finish curing). Put the soap back in a safe place and let it continue to cure for 3-4 weeks (I lined a non-aluminum baking sheet with waxed paper to finish curing my soap on).

What a great process, right?! After 3-4 weeks your soap is ready for use and you are slightly cooler than you were before you started this process ;)

*By the way, my soap has "character" because I had to rebatch it. Normally, you would get a creamy uniform color soap with this recipe.

SAFETY: While making soap and cleaning up your work area/supplies afterwards, you should ALWAYS wear gloves and goggles (I also wore a heavy apron and a surgical mask). Keep white vinegar handy - if your skin comes in contact with the lye or the soap solution, the vinegar will neutralize the reaction and prevent it from burning your skin. Do NOT reuse utensils and containers for food. Do not allow children or animals access to any of your soap making supplies or, when you are batching, your work area. Thoroughly clean your work area with white vinegar when you are done making soap. Always add the lye crystals to cold water - do NOT add the water to the lye crystals. It's not as horrible as it sounds - the lye just demands a little respect.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On a personal note...

I finally have a diagnosis: Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). Translation? I am allergic to the sun. Which explains why my skin is so sensitive to everything (it's always dealing with an allergic reaction to light). The reaction is thought to be caused by UVA rays, but UVB rays have also been shown to contribute in some cases. More common in women than men, it affects up to 10% of the American population. It usually manifests in early adulthood (before age 30) and the flare-ups are at their worst during the spring and summer months. Huh.

Olive Oil Update

I have been using olive oil as a moisturizer for my face and body for two weeks now and I'm really liking it! Although it doesn't have as many antioxidants as coconut oil, I find that it's easier to apply, absorbs well into my skin, and seems to be a little better at moisturizing - my heels are so soft! I apply a light layer to my face in the morning (which I never thought I would say - my skin tends to be more acne prone) and a heavier layer at night. I apply it to my body every day after my shower. Oh, yeah, and I can't ever smell it on my skin (another surprise). I think I'm gonna stick with it :D

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Granola

This granola recipe is definitely my favorite of the many that I have tried over the last several weeks! It is healthy, delicious, and very versatile. I have tried making it with several different kinds of seeds and nuts and a variety of sweeteners and it turns out every time! It makes a very large batch, but it can easily be halved. I probably ought to half mine because if it's in the house, I have a tendency to eat it for every meal until it's gone :)

Homemade Granola

In a very large bowl, combine:

8 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 1/2 Cups Wheat Germ

1 1/2 Cups Steel Cut Oats

1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds

1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds

1 Cup crushed Almonds

1 Cup crushed Cashews (or cashew pieces)

1 Cup crushed Walnuts or Pecans

*Set dry mixture aside.

In a small saucepan, combine:

1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

1/4 Cup unsulphured Molasses

1/4 Cup pure Maple Syrup

1/2 Cup brown rice syrup (non-vegans can substitute honey)

1/2 Cup Olive or Vegetable Oil

1/2 Cup Applesauce

1 Tbs. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. Vanilla

*Bring mixture to a boil. Pour boiling mixture over dry mixture and mix well.

After mixing all of your ingredients, spread the granola mixture onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, silicone liners, or tinfoil. Bake in the oven at 200 degree's F for 35-40 minutes.
If you're impatient or in a hurry, you can bake it at 325 degree's F for 15-20 minutes, but you really have to watch it closely; it may be fine one minute and totally burnt the next!

After the granola has cooled completely, store it in an airtight container; but it's too good to resist, so don't expect it to last long!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Olive Oil?

So...I have decided to experiment with using olive oil as a body moisturizer instead of coconut oil. Since I can't imagine walking around smelling like the deep, rich olive oil that I cook with, I am using a bottle of extra light olive oil.

Tonight was my first night using it and I really can't smell it (pleasant surprise!). It went on smoothly and easily and it didn't take much (maybe a Tablespoon or so?). I have VERY sensitive skin, so if you can hear me screaming as I chug down a bottle of hydroxyzine tonight, you will know it didn't go well :D Otherwise, I'll let you know!