Homemade Heel Balm

20140720-132452-48292885.jpg

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.
Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Stew

20140716-144320-53000190.jpg

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! :)

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

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

20140702-123349.jpg

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.

20140702-123400.jpg

20140702-123409.jpg

20140702-123416.jpg

Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments

Bruschetta Quinoa Salad

20140630-152859.jpg

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.

20140630-152907.jpg

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

20140630-152915.jpg

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

20140630-152922.jpg

4. Add tomatoes.

20140630-152930.jpg

5. Add dressing.

20140630-152939.jpg

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

20140630-152946.jpg

Enjoy!

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

Morning Sunshine Smoothie

20140630-083056.jpg

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!

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

Homemade Lip Balm

20140122-230047.jpg

I actually made this lip balm in January but then forgot to post anything about it. In a way that’s great, because I can now report that after 5 months, the lip balm is just as wonderful as on the day I made it!

I really love the way it smells and feels on my lips, and I will definitely be repeating this recipe as soon as I run out. Not only do I use it daily, but it also makes a great little gift–even better if you create a gift set with multiple scents. For gifts, I use 1/2 oz recycled metal tins from Mountain Rose Herbs. At home, I use an adorable little Altoids Smalls tin. In my purse, I carry a small amber glass jar with a screw-on lid (more secure, less chance of leaking/spilling in purse). You could also use an empty ChapStick-style tube-shaped container if you prefer.

Here is the recipe I came up with after reviewing and contemplating countless other recipes online (please ignore the cocoa butter in the photo above–I did NOT wind up including this in my lip balm):

HOMEMADE LIP BALM
*this recipe is for a large batch, enough for approximately 15 1/2 oz tins of lip balm; please adjust quantities according to your needs

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp carnauba wax
8 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp sweet almond oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil (optional: extends shelf life)
approx. 10-12 drops of essential oil(s) per tin

Instructions:

1. Melt carnauba wax slowly in a double boiler over low heat. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can simply put a glass jar or measuring cup directly into a pot with an inch or so of water. I prefer to use a measuring cup because it has a pouring spout, which comes in handy later. Note: The process of melting this wax felt to me as though it took forever.

20140122-230103.jpg

2. When the wax is finally melted, add the coconut oil and sweet almond oil. Note: The second I added oils to my wax, it seized back up into big hard clumps (see below), and I had to spend time re-melting everything. Next time, I think that I will simply melt the wax together with the oils from the very beginning.

20140122-230116.jpg

3. When your carnauba wax, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil are nicely combined, stir in the vitamin E oil (if using).

20140122-230134.jpg

4. I forgot to mention that I set up all of my tins and essential oils in advance so they would be ready to pour into as soon as the wax and oils had melted. I put mine onto a baking tray to help contain spills and splatters. I wound up not needing the large 2 oz metal tin pictured below, but I had it there just in case there was any left-over lip balm.

20140122-230141.jpg

5. Pour melted lip balm into tins and stir in essential oil(s) of your choosing with a chopstick (use one clean chopstick for each different scent). Stir quickly–especially if the temperature in your room is cool–to avoid having the lip balm harden before the scent is fully mixed in.

I made 4 tins of sweet orange, 4 tins (plus one glass jar) of peppermint, 3 tins of lavender, and 2 tins of lavender eucalyptus (which actually wound up being a great combination). If you are making an entire batch in the same scent, it would be easier to simply add your essential oil(s) into the double boiler/measuring cup/glass jar before pouring the liquid lip balm into the containers. I did mine this way because I knew I wanted to experiment with a variety of different smells.

20140122-230149.jpg

6. Carefully transfer baking tray with OPEN lip balm containers into the fridge for about an hour, until completely cool and solid. Then remove from fridge, add the lids, and store at room temperature. Enjoy!

20140122-230158.jpg

Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments

Homemade Bubble Bath: EPIC FAIL

20140619-184947.jpg

When I started experimenting with homemade bath, beauty, and cleaning products, I promised to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. This one was definitely ugly. Such a waste of good, organic ingredients. :(

Zander loves bubble baths, so yesterday, he and I decided to make our own. He chose the scents (orange and rosemary), and we even doubled the recipe to make a larger batch. I had such high hopes for this recipe, which I found on the DoTerra blog, but at the end of the day, it was very disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t expecting the mountains of bubbles that you get from chemical-laden store-bought products. I knew to expect smaller bubbles that would not last as long. However, this “bubble bath” did absolutely nothing other than turn Zander’s bathwater a milky white color. There was barely even any foam on the surface while I squirted the bubble bath under running water.

So I’m sharing this recipe as a DO NOT TRY and hoping that maybe someone out there will be able to recommend a tried and true recipe that will redeem our faith in homemade bubble bath.

Here is the FAILING recipe:

1 cup unscented castille soap
1/2 cup vegetable glycerin
2 Tbsp water
15 drops of your favorite essential oil

Coming soon… a really great recipe for homemade vegan lip balm! :)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Raw Banana Ice Cream

20140619-115454.jpg

On a hot summer day, banana ice cream makes the perfect guilt-free breakfast or snack. Ultra-creamy, cool, and sweet, it is also healthy, inexpensive, and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare!

In winter months, I sometimes opt for heavier and non-raw ingredients in addition to the bananas, such as peanut butter and mini-chocolate chips, but you really can’t beat just plain old fruit, which is what I used today. After Zander’s second bowl, he told me that his ice cream was “not very good (wait for it…); it was fantastic!!!”

Here’s how to whip up your own bowl of frozen deliciousness:

Raw Banana Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2-4 frozen bananas*
optional: about a cup of frozen mango chunks**
1/2-1 cup raw almond milk***

*I keep a large container of organic bananas in my freezer at all times. I peel them and break each banana into 3-4 pieces, then toss them into an airtight glass or tupperware container. That way, I can grab however many pieces I need for smoothies/ice cream whenever I want!
**Costco sells large bags of organic frozen mango chunks at a very reasonable price.
***You could of course substitute any non-dairy milk here–I’ve even used water in a pinch, but the end result isn’t as creamy.

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Please note that the above amounts are really flexible. Use them merely as a starting point, but exercise common sense and adjust as needed. For example, if your blender or food processor is really struggling with the mixture because it is too thick, add more almond milk. If your ice cream is more like soup, add more frozen fruit. If you prefer more of a mango flavor, add more mango. If you don’t like mango, try frozen peach slices or any other kind of fruit you have on hand.

Some people don’t really like a strong banana taste, so if you’re looking to mask that, you could try adding a tablespoon or two of raw cacao powder and a bit of agave nectar or maple syrup to minimize the banana flavor and create a rich dark chocolate ice cream base–this tastes delicious with organic cherries or raspberries!

This ice cream does melt rather quickly and is best served straight from the blender.

It’s delicious plain or sprinkled with organic strawberries and blueberries, as we did today. If you’d like to add a bit of texture and/or protein, sprinkle on a handful of raw chopped walnuts (or other nuts of your choice) and some unsweetened shredded coconut. You could even drizzle on some raw chocolate sauce and/or pureed strawberries mixed with a hint of agave nectar. The possibilities are pretty much limitless!

If you have any left over, just spoon it into popsicle molds and pop them into the freezer for later!

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

Homemade Father’s Day Gifts

20140612-173933.jpg

Zander and I discovered some lovely colored canvases on sale for 60% off at Michael’s this week, and we decided to use one for one of Alex’s Father’s Day gifts. Alex is far too busy to ever read my blog, so I feel comfortable publishing this before Sunday and am not worried that doing so will spoil the surprise. :)

Gift number one (above) is a simple handprint and footprint painting, with the hands forming leaves on the tree and the foot forming a bluebird. It was inspired by a variety of fun Pinterest findings and is pretty self-explanatory. I painted the base of the tree first and let it dry before bringing Zander in to add all of the special touches.

Gift number two (below) is a cell phone holder for use while charging Alex’s phone. It was also inspired by something I found on Pinterest and is designed to keep Alex’s phone safely out of the reach of 4-year-old hands while charging. It is made from a repurposed Tom’s of Maine mouthwash bottle.

20140612-173945.jpg

Here’s how to help your child make his or her own:

1. Find a plastic bottle in your home that is relatively flat/oval in shape (so it won’t stick out too far from the wall and get in the way) and preferably already empty. In this case, our container was not empty, so I transferred its contents into a glass bottle and then thoroughly rinsed the inside of the plastic container.

20140612-173958.jpg

2. Remove all labels and carefully clean the outside of the plastic container.

20140612-174006.jpg

3. Hold your cell phone up to the container and map out a design in your head, making sure it is deep enough that you won’t risk your phone falling out of the holder if bumped. I wrapped a piece of paper around the container to help me draw a straight line. Also, I used a dry-erase marker rather than a permanent marker so that I could wipe away any mistakes or stray markings after cutting, but you could use whatever you have on hand, and it really doesn’t matter if you are planning to cover the holder with paint or fabric.

20140612-174014.jpg

4. I was initially planning to cut out a square so that the holder could be mounted around the plug on the electrical outlet, but all of our outlets are close to the ground, and I wanted this to hang higher, so I wiped this part of the design away and left the top in tact.

20140612-174023.jpg

5. Using scissors or an X-acto knife, carefully cut along your drawn lines.

20140612-174031.jpg

6. If desired, draw and then cut a small opening at the bottom, allowing the smaller portion of your phone charger plug to pass through while keeping the larger part secure within the container. (Scroll down a few shots to see what I mean by this). You could totally skip this part and tuck your phone in with the cord sticking up out of the top, if you prefer. I just thought this would look a little cleaner and more streamlined.

20140612-174040.jpg

20140612-174050.jpg

20140612-174058.jpg

20140612-174106.jpg

7. Decorate your container however you like. Some people on Pinterest recommend adhering fabric with Mod Podge, and that looks really pretty, but I wanted the decorating part of the project to be something that Zander could do, so we decided to paint it instead. First, we coated the entire outside surface with a thick layer of black acrylic paint.

20140612-174116.jpg

8. For our design, Zander chose the animals, and then I helped him paint on the needed appendages. The base of each animal is a hodgepodge of Zander’s fingerprints. Zander chose ocean animals because he is very proud that his Daddy works to protect them. Part-way through, he decided that at least one of the animals should be an alien with multiple eyes. The additional googly eyes scattered around the scene are plankton. I was originally planning to coat the entire thing with Mod Podge as a sealer/finish, but at this point, I think we will simply leave it as it is.

20140612-174129.jpg

9. When dry, hang your holder on the wall with either a nail or a thumb tack. We did a trial run with a thumb tack, and it seemed sturdy enough, but once Alex decides where he’d like the holder to be located, we’ll probably use a nail for the final mounting.

20140612-174136.jpg

To close, here is a shot of our work station. In case you were wondering, this 9×12-foot canvas drop cloth is one of the best purchases I have ever made. I highly recommend it.

I can’t wait to watch Zander give these super-fun gifts to Alex on Sunday! He is extremely proud of them, as he should be! :)

20140612-174143.jpg

Posted in Arts & Crafts | 1 Comment

Raw Vegan Superfood Brownie Bites

20140611-203218.jpg

I’m afraid I have developed an unhealthy obsession with a healthy dessert. Meet my new love: raw vegan superfood brownies.

Mine are a hybrid between two recipes. The bottom layer was taken from Oh She Glows Two-Layer Raw Chocolate Brownies. The top layer was taken from the Jenny Ross Raw Basics cookbook; it is the chocolate “frosting” for Jenny’s raw cupcakes. Put the two together, and I swear they taste better than any cooked brownie I have ever tasted in my life. It is hard to believe that these brownies are made with such nutritious ingredients!

Here’s how to make them:

RAW VEGAN SUPERFOOD BROWNIE BITES
*makes 32 1-inch bite-sized squares (half of an 8×8-inch pan)
**double this recipe if you want to completely fill an 8×8-inch pan

Brownie Ingredients:
1 cup raw walnut pieces
1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds
1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt
heaping 2 Tbsp raw cacao nibs (I omitted these)
heaping 1/4 cup raw walnut pieces (I omitted these in the mix, but I did sprinkle a couple of handfuls of raw walnut pieces on top of my brownies before freezing)

Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup raw coconut butter
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp cinnamon (I omitted this)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, one piece going each way to make it easy to lift out the brownies later on. (I used an 8×8-inch silicone pan, so I was able to just pop them right out after freezing, without using any parchment paper).
  2. In a food processor, process the walnuts into a fine crumb. (I used my Vitamix).
  3. Add the hemp seeds and pitted dates and process until finely chopped and sticky. It should look like a Larabar in texture and appearance.
  4. Add the cacao powder, vanilla, and pink Himalayan salt and process until thoroughly combined.
  5. If using, stir or pulse in the cacao nibs and chopped walnuts until just combined.
  6. Evenly press the mixture into a prepared square pan. You can roll it out with a pastry roller until smooth. (Mine was way too sticky to use a pastry roller, so I just mashed it down with my fingers… and then happily licked them clean).
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the frosting ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  8. Carefully spread the frosting on top of the base layer, then sprinkle some raw walnut pieces on top, if desired, and gently press them into the frosting with your hands.
  9. Carefully transfer the pan into the freezer on a flat, even surface. Chill for 20+ minutes, or until the brownies are firm enough to slice.
  10. Remove from freezer and transfer onto a large cutting board, then cut into desired shape and size. I chose to make mine 1-inch square, the perfect bite-sized piece, but in a way, that’s kind of silly, since I cannot imagine myself actually eating just one at a time. ;)
  11. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. These might also store well in the fridge; but I like to eat them straight out of the freezer.

Enjoy!

20140611-203229.jpg

20140611-203443.jpg

Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments