Homemade Bath Bombs

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What a hilarious process this was!!! I was honestly stunned when, in the end, we wound up with actual, functioning bath bombs.

Zander and I followed this recipe from the NW Edible Life blog without any modifications. Although we didn’t have such beautiful molds, I had really high hopes that our bath bombs would turn out almost as gorgeous as Erica’s. Sadly, there is nothing gorgeous about our bath bombs. It is hard to even tell what they are supposed to be at first glance! However, we had a lot of fun making them, and Zander had even more fun using them in last night’s bath, so I consider this a win and will definitely try it again in the future.

Below is Zander’s mise en place “cooking” station, with pre-measured dishes of citric acid, baking soda, corn starch, epsom salts, water, natural plant-based food coloring, and the lavender/eucalyptus essential oil blend I add to his diffuser every night to help him sleep.

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We used a metal whisk to combine all of the dry ingredients before adding the wet ones. I found that the food coloring and essential oils dispersed more easily in the dough when mixed first with the water. That last part needs to be done really quickly, so I commandeered the whisk when we added the liquids.

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Once everything had been mixed, it took on the consistency of “cloud dough” and was really fun simply to run our fingers through and play with before adding it to the molds.

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We started off using little heart-shaped silicone molds and an extra large muffin tin. We packed everything in very firmly just like the instructions said and did our best to smooth off the tops.

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Much to my surprise, the muffin tins emptied perfectly onto our drying tray, but the silicone molds did not.

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At this point, Zander had long since abandoned me to build Fort #247 of the day in our living room. I made the unilateral decision to pack some of the crumbled mess from the silicone molds into an ice cream scoop to see if that would work.

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I also tried using a 1/4 cup metal spoon. Both worked reasonably well, but in the end, I decided to just hand-roll a few balls, thinking that I would prefer a classic round shape to the half sphere/half egg shapes I had created.

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As instructed, I left the bath bombs in a safe place to dry overnight, but when I went in to take a peek about an hour later, I found that everything was sort of melting and expanding…

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Determined not to give up, I grabbed a regular-sized muffin tin and some unbleached paper liners, then re-formed the gloppy mess above into 12 muffin-sized balls and patted them into the liners. I left for yoga, feeling satisfied that this was the perfect solution.

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Approximately three hours later, I came back to find this!!!

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The “bombs” looked as though they had all exploded while we were gone, and unlike before, they were already quite crusty at this point and definitely not pliable enough to re-shape into something else. So I just left them alone for a few more hours, then peeled off the paper liners and carefully pulled off the outer edges of the crazy exploded muffin tops (which we saved for home use).

When you look at them this way, it is arguable that they vaguely resemble actual bath bombs.

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Zander and I chose the four “nicest” ones for a friend’s belated birthday gift.

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I wrapped each one in plastic wrap (to keep it dry) and then in a square of tissue paper to try and make them look as pretty as possible. Who knows if they will make it to our friend in one piece via the US postal service? Regardless, I am pleased to report that we confirmed during Zander’s bath time that even the ugly broken chunks perform quite beautifully in the tub. :)

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Chocolate Hemp, Chia, & Kale “Frosty”

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All I could think while drinking this–and all I have been able to think for the rest of the day–was that this is surely the world’s most delicious (and sneakily nutritious!) smoothie. It tasted exactly the way I remember a Wendy’s “Frosty” tasting back when I was a little girl, but with none of the guilt! It was rich and creamy, and so thick that I had to get out one of my extra wide (5/16″) metal straws. The regular-sized ones just wouldn’t cut it.

This smoothie was inspired by Angela Liddon’s yummy Creamy Chocolate Hemp Smoothie for Two. I just love Oh She Glows, both the blog and the cookbook! I made a few minor modifications based on what was in my fridge, and voilà, the addictive and oh-so-energizing vegan “Frosty” was born.

I happen to love green smoothies and don’t mind the taste of kale, but for those who dislike kale, this would be an excellent way to sneak in a daily dose, because no-one would ever suspect that there was kale in this drink (so long as you’re using a high-speed blender, such as the Vitamix). The irony is that my son, Zander–who loves green smoothies–will not drink chocolate ones. Isn’t that funny? Oh well, more for me! I don’t need him bouncing off the walls from all that raw cacao powder, anyway. ;)

CHOCOLATE HEMP, CHIA, & KALE “FROSTY”

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups homemade almond milk (or vegan milk of choice)
1 Tbsp Grade C maple syrup
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
4 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 large bananas (peeled and frozen)
1 large handful of baby kale leaves
approx. 4 ice cubes

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until super smooth.

I had just washed a big bowl of raspberries for Zander to eat along with his buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, and as sort of an afterthought, I plopped one into my smoothie. It was such a yummy combination that I wound up stealing a few more from Zander’s bowl when he wasn’t looking. Shhhh. Please don’t tell him! He’d be really upset with me. OK, so maybe I was wrong about this being an entirely guilt-free drink. ;)

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Beluga Lentils with Garlic Asparagus

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Last night’s dinner was extremely popular! We will definitely be adding it to our rotation.

Alex and I ate ours as pictured above, along with a creamy bowl of Golden Beet Soup on the side. Zander ate exactly zero roasted potato wedges, but he had two big helpings of asparagus and came up with a very interesting twist for the beluga lentils–he added them to his golden beet soup along with a bit of asparagus, which he shredded by hand. Turns out, it was a truly delicious combination! Zander also ate three Sweet Potato Biscuits with his meal (which I made using whole wheat flour).

This dish couldn’t be simpler to make. Here’s how to do it:

BELUGA LENTILS WITH GARLIC ASPARAGUS

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups beluga lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
a pinch of Himalayan salt

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, chopped
approx. 15 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
Himalayan salt to taste
dash of balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

Rinse and soak beluga lentils for about 3 hours. Simmer in vegetable broth and Himalayan salt for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

While lentils are cooking, sauté garlic and asparagus in olive oil, Himalayan salt, and balsamic vinegar for about 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until asparagus is tender.

After that, how you eat it is up to you! Either serve the asparagus on a bed of lentils, or mix them all together in a bowl of golden beet soup. ;)

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Preschool Carpentry 101: How to Build a Birdhouse

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Today started out as a lesson in the basics of carpentry, and it spontaneously evolved into building a birdhouse. I initially set out some wood, nails, screws, screw drivers (one flat head and one Phillips), and a hammer. Then I invited Zander to come and experiment with them.

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At some point in the future, we will use the collection of (free!) scrap wood I’ve been gathering from Lowe’s and storing in the garage. But for today, I chose balsa wood because it is very soft and forgiving–easy to insert screws, remove nails, etc.–as well as very quiet. We live in an apartment building, and I didn’t think our neighbors would appreciate me letting my 4-year-old hammer away at actual wood all afternoon. Balsa wood was perfect.

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I started by setting up a few nails and screwing a handle and some metal pieces onto a block of wood, using a variety of hardware to keep it interesting. My intent was to create a setting in which Zander could intuitively get to work without me giving any instructions.

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It worked like a charm. Zander immediately began to hammer, screw, unscrew, and remove nails, all with great enthusiasm! I was occasionally asked to hold things steady and keep them in place, but other than that, I was strictly forbidden from participating in his work.

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The next thing I knew, Zander was asking me if we could please build a birdhouse. I couldn’t think of a reason not to, so we started assembling random pieces of balsa wood. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was soft enough for me to cut with scissors, and before I knew it, we were done!

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The next step, of course, was for Zander to paint the birdhouse. He could not have been more delighted by the process or the outcome, choosing his colors very carefully. Again, I was enlisted to help hold the birdhouse steady, but nothing more.

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The birdhouse is currently out on our balcony drying. It will be interesting to see whether anyone actually moves into the house once it has been hung. Regardless, I consider this project a huge success!

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3-Ingredient Chocolate Truffles

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Tonight, while watching Master Chef on HuluPlus, I developed a craving for truffles, so I whipped up this old stand-by during the commercial break. It’s slightly modified from Charlie Trotter’s recipe in the book Great Chefs Cook Vegan, by Linda Long.

I normally dust these decadent truffles in raw cacao powder, but tonight I decided to sprinkle them with Himalayan salt. Yum. Craving satisfied. :)

3-INGREDIENT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Combine equal parts raw cashew butter, raw cacao powder, and maple syrup (grade C is best) in a food processor until creamy. (For tonight’s batch, I used 1/4 cup of each ingredient).

Chill in freezer until solid enough to scoop out by the spoonful and roll into balls (at least 15 minutes).

Eat as is, or roll in topping of choice, such as crushed nuts, shredded coconut, raw cacao powder, Himalayan salt, or even crushed peppermint candy.

Store extras in the fridge or freezer (I prefer freezer).

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Homemade Heel Balm

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With summer in full swing, my feet–particularly my poor, dry, cracked heels–need something even thicker and more nourishing than homemade body butter. I looked for a recipe online, but I couldn’t find anything that was just right, so I wound up adapting one that was intended for a cow’s udders, and it worked!

This recipe made enough to fill two empty deodorant containers (which are just perfect for application on the feet), and I poured the extra “balm” into a 2 oz metal tin. The thing is, when it hardens, it is very solid. Although it melts beautifully when rubbed directly onto the skin, it’s not the sort of thing you can dip a finger into to apply. So when I have used up both of my deodorant containers of heel balm, I will probably wind up melting what’s in the tin and pouring it into an empty deodorant container rather than trying to awkwardly rub it onto my feet by hand. You could also simply reduce the amount of wax used in your recipe if you prefer a softer “balm.”

The peppermint oil feels wonderful on tired feet, and I have noticed a significant difference since I started using this balm at night. I apply a thick layer after my shower (or a quick foot soak) and gentle exfoliation, then put on a pair of socks to keep it from rubbing off. In the morning, my feet feel noticeably softer, and the cracks are already greatly reduced and no longer painful. Oh, and it smells wonderful, too!

Here is the recipe:

HEEL BALM

Ingredients:
1/2 cup carnauba wax flakes
1/2 cup cocoa butter chunks
3/8 cup calendula oil
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/4 tsp vitamin E oil
30 drops peppermint essential oil
30 drops melaleuca (tea tree) essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil

Instructions:

  1. In a double boiler, melt the carnauba wax and cocoa butter over medium-high heat, stirring consistently. (You can also fill a small saucepan 1/2 way with water and place a Pyrex measuring cup inside, melting the ingredients inside the Pyrex cup.)
  2. Once the carnauba wax and cocoa butter are melted, remove from heat and stir in the calendula oil and coconut oil.
  3. Next, add the vitamin E oil and the peppermint, melaleuca, and lavender essential oils.
  4. Allow to cool slightly, then pour (or spoon, if too thick to pour) into an empty deodorant container, gently packing down to remove all air bubbles.
  5. Place in refrigerator (without lid) to cool until completely solid.
  6. Apply nightly to clean feet.
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Slow Cooker Red Lentil Stew

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This flavorful and super-simple stew earned me the following praise from Zander during last night’s dinner, as he gobbled down his second helping:

“Mom, you cook like a chef! Chefs never make anything that tastes bad, and this is not bad. Even though you are not a chef, you do cook like one.”

My husband agreed and asked me to add this to our list of meals to “definitely repeat.” Any time I get such rave reviews, especially for a time-saving slow-cooker meal, I know that a recipe is worth sharing. I adapted mine slightly from this wonderful recipe by Vegan in the Freezer.

SLOW COOKER RED LENTIL STEW

Ingredients:
2 cups dried red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
6 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
2 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (32 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Toss all ingredients into slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours. (I cooked mine on low for 8.5  hours, and it was perfect).

Apparently, this recipe also freezes well–although I don’t think my family will ever have enough leftovers to confirm whether this is true. For us, it made enough for one complete meal (last night) and a side dish (tonight).

Enjoy! :)

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Homemade Bubble Mix – for blowing bubbles (not for bath)

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After last month’s disappointing attempt to make homemade bubble bath with Zander, I was reluctant to try this, but I am so glad that we did, because it works beautifully!

Zander loves blowing bubbles (what kid doesn’t?), and he usually winds up with the bubble mix all over his body in the process. I like to know exactly what is on my child’s skin, so I’m uncomfortable with most of the store-bought bubble mixes.

On that note, I just googled my dish soap (Method, clementine)–unfortunately after letting Zander blow bubbles with it all morning–and was absolutely horrified to learn that it earned an F on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning!! Even  Seventh Generation Free and Clear, which was recommended on Baby Savers (see below), earned a C. Needless to say, I will be replacing our dish soap with one of the four brands that has earned an A on the EWG site, and we’ll be making our next batch of bubble mix with that.

It was embarrassing and nauseating for me to realize that I had just allowed Zander to slather himself down in (albeit very diluted) toxic dish soap, but on the bright side, this is a great reminder for me to always check before I buy! I am making almost all of my own cleaning products now, so I’ve relaxed a bit about checking ingredients, simply because I am buying fewer products. I bought a ton of this Method dish soap last year during a huge sale, and I haven’t quite used it all up yet. At least we are down to our last refill pack.

From now on, I vow to be more diligent! OK, moving on…

The recipe, which I found on Baby Savers, is fabulous because it’s inexpensive, super easy to prepare, and actually works! When we make our next batch using a dish soap that is actually non-toxic, I think it will be perfect. The Baby Savers site offers 7 different recipes, along with some useful and interesting information, so be sure to check it out. I used the Crazy Deluxe Bubbles Recipe, and next time, I will try the Non-Toxic, Natural Bubbles–the only differences seem to be that the latter uses a greater quantity of non-toxic dish soap and no sugar, and the mix is best used when allowed to sit overnight first.

I’m willing to bet that no matter what dish soap you are using, it’s probably still safer than whatever chemicals are found in most of those “made in China” bubble mixes. It’s also super-convenient to be able to whip this up at home as needed rather than going to a store to buy more.

Anyhow, without further ado, here is the recipe:

HOMEMADE BUBBLE MIX
*we quadrupled the recipe to make 4 cups of bubble mix so that we could fill our container

Ingredients:
4 cups warm water
8 Tbsp liquid dish soap
4 Tbsp glycerin
4 Tbsp white sugar

Instructions:

Dissolve sugar in warm water, then stir in remaining ingredients.

Store in an airtight container. We used a funnel to pour ours into an empty plastic container from one of Zander’s bath soap refills (photo below).

The bubble mix can be used right away.

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Bruschetta Quinoa Salad

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Here’s another great use for leftover quinoa!!

I was delighted to find this recipe by Nicole MacPherson on the Yummy Mummy Club blog. It is designed to be a salad in a jar (which I love), but I made mine in a regular old bowl as a side dish for tonight’s dinner. It is going to be really hard not to gobble it all up before Alex comes home from work. It is seriously THAT good. It actually tastes like bruschetta in a bowl–and it’s gluten-free! :)

Here’s the recipe, modified ever-so-slightly from Nicole’s brilliant original:

Ingredients (all organic):
approx. 1 cup of leftover quinoa (pre-cooked, cooled)
1 pint of sweet grape tomatoes (halved)
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 large handful basil leaves (chopped)
Himalayan salt (to taste)

1/4 cup quinoa
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped basil

- See more at: http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/nicole-macpherson-meatless-mummy-con-carne/20140423/bruschetta-quinoa-salad-recipe#sthash.2yH0MNyT.dpuf

Instructions:

1. Chop tomatoes in half.

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2. Mix garlic, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Himalayan salt to make the dressing.

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3. Start with a layer of cooked, cooled quinoa.

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4. Add tomatoes.

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5. Add dressing.

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6. Stir (or put lid on bowl and toss gently) until well-combined.

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Enjoy!

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Morning Sunshine Smoothie

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I tend to get so hung up on making green smoothies that I often forget to explore other options. I especially never think to blend carrots in my Vitamix. But today was a new day!

Over the weekend, we tasted a drink at the Vitamix demo stand in Costco, and Zander liked it so much that he wound up drinking 4 samples. It reminded me of an Orange Julius, from back in the day when I drank those.

We had a surplus of oranges in our fridge this morning, and while I was juicing most of them, I decided to set aside a few to make this yummy drink.

It is so delicious, refreshing, and energizing–and it couldn’t be simpler to make! Here’s the recipe:

MORNING SUNSHINE SMOOTHIE:
*makes 2 large servings

Ingredients:
3 juicy oranges (peeled)
3 medium-sized carrots (chopped into sixths)
1 large frozen banana
1 cup ice

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender until cold and frothy, then pour yourself a glass of liquid sunshine and enjoy!

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