Food is Evil

After much research on the interwebs, I have come to a conclusion.

Food is poison and it will kill you.

Ok, I’m only sort of kidding here.

Everyone, laymen and nutritionists alike, has their very own belief on what foods are actually good for you.  The newest diet/lifestyle is the Paleo DIet… in which you only get to eat what a caveman could.  Because grains are evil.  So is dairy.

Fat is evil too.

So is meat.

And salt.

Carbohydrates.

Soy.

Sugar.

Legumes.

Genetically modified foods… organic foods….

You can eat pumpkin, thankfully.  Everyone seems to think pumpkin is good even if they can’t agree on anything else.

Seriously, if you followed the evil food guidelines of all the different diets, you wouldn’t be able to eat anything at all!  Mostly because our bodies simply aren’t designed to perfectly digest anything.

Our stomachs aren’t designed for plants.  Our intestines aren’t designed for meats.  Everything will kill you.

So eat up!

What I can tell you for sure is that pre-packaged foods are filled with chemicals, some of them incredibly toxic, rather than food.  It’s also more expensive than buying produce and meats and cooking them yourself.  When you buy low fat, low sodium, low sugar/sugar free foods, that is only adding to the chemicals and other hidden nasties.

Oh, and coconut oil is a miracle.

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Simplifying my Life by Spending Less Time in the Lotion Aisle

You know, when you tell someone you do not use shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, face lotion, toothpaste or deodorant, they think you are a stinky hippie.  Well, not that there is anything wrong with hippies, but I’m not.  I smell like jasmine, thank you very much!  My hair is shiny and clean, my skin is healthy and soft, and my breath is cinammony fresh.

Before I had a kid attached to me, standing in the lotion aisle trying things, sniffing things, reading their claims… it was a luxury.  One that is impossible with a three and a half year old chomping to peruse the toy aisles.

I’ve spent countless amounts of money on lotions for face and body, shampoos and conditioners, body care products of all sorts and descriptions.  Few of those worked (hence the constant trying of new things that didn’t work) and all of them contained harmful chemicals that when you really REALLY think about it you don’t want anywhere near the largest organ of your body to be absorbed into you… urgh.

I mean, if you wouldn’t want to EAT it, why would you want to absorb it through your skin?

I stopped using shampoo a long time ago.  Shampoo was a luxury… one that became more of a hassle than a benefit.  For so long I spent so much effort on my hair.  Dry, brittle, baby fine hair that turned to frizzy poof at the drop of a hat.  Unless I wanted to damage it more spending time blow drying it to perfection.

So, I stopped using shampoo.

I tried the whole baking soda/vinegar routine, but my hair felt like straw.  Lovely looking straw, but not a texture I liked feeling.  So I switched it up, found a natural conditioner and still skipped the shampoo.  That worked for a long time.

Then summer hit.

Maybe it was the heat and sweating, or maybe it was a change in humidity.  My hair suddenly was looking oily, though it hadn’t been for the months I’d been shampoo free.

I recently switched back to baking soda and vinegar, just a couple times a week.

But I added a new thing.

Not a new thing to me, but a new thing to my hair.

See, I also stopped using facial moisturizer, because I found something better.

I met grapeseed oil.

I added a little fragrance oil, and BAM!  I have a moisturizer that smells fabulous, is great for my skin and contains no toxins!  Who knew oil was what skin needed?  It just takes a drop or two straight out of the bath.  (Grapeseed oil might not be the best for your skin type, though something out there will be).  No oily skin either, it soaks right in.

THAT very same bottle of grapeseed oil is also my go to leave in conditioner.  After applying to my face, I add another drop or two to the ends of my hair.  No more straw!  It’s light, it’s not drying, it’s wonderful.

I had been using argan oil, but that stuff is liquid gold.  Grapeseed oil is very economical, as are avocado oil, hemp oil, and almond oil.  All have different properties, so either test them on yourself or look up their properties.  Not so incidentally, they are great in various other body products too.  More bang for your buck!

So, now my skin looks and feels great, my hair looks and feels great, and I’ve discarded a whole slew of products from my bathroom.  Baking soda is cheap, apple cider vinegar is cheap, grapeseed oil is cheap… essential oils and fragrance oils can be pricey, but a few drops go a long way in most uses.

That sent me looking around my bathroom, looking at other products I use and how I can make a change.  Which led me to a whole bunch of information on the toxins I’ve been loading into my body without even realizing it.

Did you know deodorant has aluminum and parabens in it?  And really doesn’t work all that well in the first place?  Yeah, me either.

Deodorant had to go.  Even if it isn’t overly expensive.

BO was not an option, though.

Turns out, baking soda is an excellent deodorant for more than just your fridge.  Coconut oil (yeah, the stuff you use to make fried chicken, go figure) has antibacterial properties and is solid at room temperature.  If you want a bar or stick, you can add beeswax, then mold it, though a little starch helps with both moisture and solidifying.  Or even a bit of shea butter so you can have silky smooth moisturized underarms.  It costs pennies to make from things I already have.

This clearing out my cabinet has now become a landslide of discarding products and changing them out for the SAME FEW INGREDIENTS.

Ingredients I already have for laundry soap, soap making, and general cleaning.  A few oils and butters, plus beeswax and baking soda.  Epsom salt is a good thing to have, so is washing soda (though you can turn baking soda into washing soda in a pinch).  A few essential oils, and you are SET for body care and keeping your house clean.

What the hell?  I’ve been spending a crapload of money to buy all these products that I can replace with just a few?

I can EVEN make a good for me toothpaste that doesn’t taste bad!  It’s cinnamon flavored!  Sweetened with stevia, flavored with essential oil, a bit of baking soda to clean and either castile soap (ew!) or coconut oil to make a paste.

Seriously, a few ingredients makes tons of things that work as well or better than the commercial counterparts.  They take a bit of time to prepare, but generally less time than the drive to the store.  And you can make them in your pjs.

Just start with one, single change.  One product replaced by a natural healthy alternative.  Give that change two weeks for your body to acclimate (this is particularly true with chucking shampoo or store bought deodorant or facial moisturizer.  Your body will need time to adjust to the change.)

Make a vegetarian meal once a week.  (Don’t tell the family, just feed it to them.)

Start reading labels and thinking about the products you use.

It might SOUND difficult, time consuming, pain in the ass, but it’s not.  Really.

My Soaps

The Sexy Moisturizing Soap

This is a fabulous winter soap, with lots of moisturizing goodness.  My soap came out of the mold oddly oily feeling, but it’s luscious to use, leaving skin feeling well lubricated and clean.  Decent lather, but not super bubbly.

**This recipe will be getting a rework.  My math is bad and it’s highly superfat, which is why the bar is oily.  I’ll work on my math skills and post an update.**

Sweet Almond Oil 3.1 ounces

Canola Oil 6.2 ounces

Coconut Oil 4.6 ounces

Grapeseed Oil 3.1 ounces

Olive Oil 13.4 ounces

Safflower Oil 3.1 ounces

Shea Butter 1.6 ounces

Lye 4.5

Water 11.2

2 tablespoons of raw honey

A note on using honey – Honey is an odd thing in soap and slightly finicky.  You need to reserve some of your water (I held back 1.2 ounces), heat it up and melt your honey into it before adding it to a slightly cooled lye solution.  Honey will change how your soap behaves in hot process, you just have to wait it out.

Essential Oils (I used Orange, Cinnamon and Clove)

Kitchen Sink Soap

It uses everything but the kitchen sink.  I grabbed a bunch of common oils you probably have in your kitchen, used them all at 20%, and got soap.  Yes, I am that awesome.  This is a very nice general purpose soap with a good lather, very cleansing.  It doesn’t do a whole lot for the moisture department, but it isn’t at all drying either.

Canola Oil 8 ounces

Olive Oil 8 ounces

Coconut Oil 8 ounces

Vegetable Shortening 8 ounces

Soybean Oil 8 ounces

Lye 5.4

Water 13.2

Essential Oils

Sparkly Clean

I launched myself head first into a new adventure.

I made my very first soap.

From scratch using the evil lye solution.

I made what is known among soapers as “bastile” soap, which just means I didn’t make 100% olive oil soap.

And it was wonderful.

It was also horrible.  My second batch turned to this horrible oily scum that I had to dump out.  Bet my pipes are clean and sparkly now.

Now, soap making is a sketchy combination of science and art and turns such bad words as “fat” into a good thing.  It is also far less difficult that one might imagine.

I’ve held off on soap making, other than the cheater pour and mold type, for one specific reason.  Waiting 4-6 weeks to use my soap was just out of the question!  I’m an immediate gratification kind of girl.

Then I learned one important fact: there are two methods of making soap, and one of them gives you immediate (24 hour) satisfaction.

Cold Process — Cold process soap making is a misnomer.  This is the current popular method that you see all over the interwebs.  Essentially, you mix it up, then pour it into molds.  After a day or two, you pop it out, cut it up, and then it has to SIT ON A SHELF FOR 4-6 WEEKS BEFORE YOU CAN USE IT.

On the other hand, you can make ginormous batches of soap using this method.  Frankly, I don’t find myself needing 10lbs of soap I have to wait 6 weeks for.  (Though I’m going to give cold process a shot and give out the results for Christmas.  Lucky you people!)

Hot Process — Hot process, on the other hand, gives you usable soap as soon as it cools down, at least overnight.  You cook your soap either in a crock pot or on the stove and it goes through some acrobatics you need to monitor which are loads of fun.  Then you glop it into a mold and let it sit.

Once it is fully cooled, you can unmold it, cut it, and use it immediately, because it’s fully saponified by the heat and doesn’t need to cure.  Granted, some soaps will remain somewhat pliable (damn you bastile!) until they’ve had a bit of resting time, but two weeks still beats out 4-6 weeks.

You can use just about any recipe with either process, though do make sure you run any recipe through a lye calculator.  If you get that wrong, bad things can happen… like caustic or oily soap.

You are limited in batch size.  In my 6 quart crock pot, I can make about a 3 pound batch, but not much more than that.  (That’s nine 5 ounce bars),

The Science — The science of soap making is actually pretty darn cool.  All soap is made with lye, which is the same stuff plumbers use on really stubborn drains.  The lye reacts with the fats (either animal or plant) you add it to, saponifying it and making soap.

Lye is required to make real soap.  You can’t get around that.  Soap making requires a 33% solution of NaOH.  Lye is caustic, so this isn’t a kid friendly project, though honestly, it is less dangerous than cleaning your bathroom.  Seriously, have you really looked at the safety precautions on your cleaning products?  No, because you use vinegar and water!

The Tools — Technically, most of what you need to try your hand at soap making is already in your kitchen.  Olive oil, some glass bowls, a wire whisk and a crock pot or non-aluminum pot.  Heck, you can actually make a tiny batch in your microwave if you are feeling really confident.  (If you want to make hot process, you don’t need a special crock pot, because by the time you are finished, it is soap and all the lye is used up.)

You will also need a scale that measures in ounces.  Soap is measured by weight, always.  Here is where you can see why complete with pretty pictures.

If you use plastic or wood tools, you will not be able to later use these items for food.  Glass and stainless steel are non-porous, though, and can be completely de-lyed without issue.  Big pyrex measuring cups are perfect for soap making.

Most tutorials show a stick mixer.  The kind you use to mix up protein drinks, not the kind you use for cake batter.  This isn’t necessary, but it does speed up the process and save your arm.  You can manually mix with a wire whisk and have perfect soap.

Lye you probably don’t have, but you can find it in the plumbing section of some hardware stores (I got mine at Lowe’s, I’ve heard of someone getting hers at Dollar General.)  Lye comes as a sort of salt texture (at least, mine did) which makes it easy to pour without an issue.  You can go the gloves and goggles route, though I felt silly as hell all suited up for hazmat.  Keep some vinegar handy for accidental splashes.  AND ALWAYS ADD LYE TO WATER, not the other way around.  Exothermic reactions can be exciting, but stick to playing with vinegar and baking soda to demonstrate them.

You will also need something to mold your soap in.  You can use pretty much anything that will hold the amount of soap you are making.  I used washed out half gallon milk containers and just peeled them off my finished blocks.  Pringles cans are apparently fabulous for hot process though they are coated with aluminum and thus cannot be used as cold process molds without lining them fully first.  Plastic storage bins, a shoebox lined with butcher paper, a length of 3 inch pvc pipe… you get the picture.  Just make sure it’s something you will be able to get your soap out of again.

The Ingredients — The best part about soap making is that you can make whatever you want.  You can go strictly vegan with nut and fruit oils.  Or you can go kitchen savvy with lard, vegetable oil and shortening.  Each oil and fat has it’s own properties which will change your final result.

The best part?  I got 6 bars of soap for about $5 in olive oil.  Bars of the same soap that cost $5 a piece.  Yeah, that.  If I had done a bit more work finding cheap oil, I could have brought that cost WAY down.  And one 5 ounce bar will make 32 ounces of liquid castile soap.  I’ll let you know how that experiment turns out.

If you keep essential oils around, those are perfect for soap making.  (I used tea tree oil in my bastile soap for it’s antibacterial properties, which means I not only made castile soap, I made antibacterial soap!)  Stay away from your kitchen extracts, though!

Powdered milk, ground up oatmeal, honey, rock salt, and any number of other things also make good additives.

It’s a fun and useful hobby, but really not a child safe one!  Unless yours are like mine and love soap.  The weird kid.

Tutorial and Recipe Links!

Small Notebook’s A Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making

Soap Queen’s  Free Beginner’s Guide to Cold Process Soap Making  This one has a fabulous vocabulary list as well as a simple recipe to get you going.  There are also a whole slew of recipes and projects from soap to lotion to lip balm.  Great blog for all things like that.

Ready Nutrition’s Soap Making: A Beginner’s Tutorial This one has a hot processing recipe.

Chickens In the Road Hot Process Soap in a Crock Pot  A tutorial and recipe that is very kitchen friendly.

Hoegger Farmyard’s Simple Milk Soap Recipe  This one calls for goat’s milk, but you could substitute cow’s milk or even cream if you can’t source goat’s milk.

The Ponet Vedre Soap Shop’s Recipes and Instructions Page  A list of all sorts of bath and body recipes, including a shaving bar for the guys.  (Mica is used as colorant in these recipes and can be left out.)

Fimby’s Holiday Spice Soap recipe  This one will be ready just in time for Christmas!  Just make sure you use the Imperial recipe for your ounces measurements.  She has more recipes and a list of links here too.

There are a million and one recipes, and that’s just counting what is online.  You can get books by the stack filled with recipes and how-tos.  I was looking specifically for easy to source ingredient recipes, but there are all sorts of different soaps you can try.  Have fun with it!  And don’t be afraid of halve recipes, just make sure to run them through a soap calculator before making them.

Squishy, Sticky, Veggie, Love

I don’t know if you actually like vegetables or not.  Oddly enough, most people think they don’t.  Personally, I believe that a love of veggies is in the preparation and selection.  You prepare it wrong, and it might be good for you, but you just aren’t going to like it.

That said… I’m a terrible cook.

It MIGHT be because I treat recipes like suggestions.

Naw.

I am a bit of a trial and error cook.  Partly, it’s because at any given time, I can only find one measuring cup and a teaspoon.  Measuring is for pussies anyway.

So this, so-called, recipe works well for me.  And it doesn’t involve cooking.  I know, right?!

Raw Veggie Spring Rolls

So, go into your fridge, find some veggies that are good raw.  Carrots, beets, cucumber, sprouts, spring greens, lettuce, radishes, whatever.  Anything you can eat raw works.  (I’m using beets, carrots, cucumber and little yellow tomatoes, because that’s what I have.)

Here's my veggies, all ready to be grated.

Here’s my veggies, all ready to be grated.

Take those veggies and do whatever voodoo you need to do (peeling and trimming and whatnot) and then grate them, cut them into matchsticks or otherwise make itty bitty pieces out of them.  If you use a food processor, be really careful you don’t end up with puree.  That wouldn’t work.

Cucumbers aren't really good to grate, but isn't it all pretty?

Cucumbers aren’t really good to grate, but isn’t it all pretty?

Now, you need one special thing.  You need rice wrappers.  You might be able to find them in the Asian cuisine section of your grocery store.  I got mine at Whole Foods.  You don’t want egg roll wrappers, you want rice pancakes.

The wondrous rice thingies.

The wondrous rice thingies.

These suckers are weird and wonderful.  They come out of the package like sheets of plastic.  While dry, they are actually fragile and you can crack them easily.

They are sort of like plastic sheets until you get them wet.  Wonderfully weird.

They are sort of like plastic sheets until you get them wet. Wonderfully weird.

You need a pan big enough to fit a whole rice thingy in and submerge it in water.  I used a clean frying pan.  (Make sure you follow the instructions on the package here, they might be different).  You soak one at a time for just a short time, then you pull it out and CAREFULLY flatten it onto a clean dish towel.  Put a couple tablespoons total of your grated/sliced veggies on and wrap that baby up.  The rice is sticky, which holds it all together.

Just a little bit!

Just a little bit!

Ta-da!  Fresh spring rolls.

Beets might not be the best thing, but they taste so freaking good.

Beets might not be the best thing, but they taste so freaking good.

Apparently you can fry them… but seeing as I am a loser when it comes to frying things, mine ended up looking like a massacre when I was done.  Freaking mess.  And besides, that involves cooking.

The Great Spring Roll Massacre

The Great Spring Roll Massacre

Now that you have your rolls of veggie love, you need something to dip them in.  My favorite is peanut sauce.  It’s easy.  Couldn’t get any easier if you just poured it from the bottle.

Take a good scoop of peanut butter, any kind will do, though I prefer all natural in this instance.  Add some garlic… this is when minced garlic in a jar in your fridge comes in handy.  Get the big one, seriously.  Add just a pinch of sugar, or not.  Sprinkle in some soy sauce.  MIx it up, and here’s the kicker.  Add water.

Stop adding water when you like the consistency.  It’s a bit tricky to get it mixed in, but it will mix, promise.

My peanut sauce.  It's good.

My peanut sauce. It’s good.

And there you have it.  Fresh, tasty, veggie goodness.  Without cooking.  They are fresh and filled with the things you love with a nice chewy outer casing.

On a side note… beets turn everything red.  Just sayin’.

Quinoa, a Rice Alternative

I just met a new grain.

Quinoa.

It’s this weird food you find in the health food area of your grocery store.  When you open the box, you find these weird little balls.

Turns out, it’s actually not a grain at all.  Something about grass.  It’s actually classed with beets and swiss chard.  Whatever that means.

When you look online, you see all these big words about what makes quinoa such a super food.  Words like lysine and isoleucine and phytonutrients.  It made my brain hurt, just a little bit.  You can find all that technical info here, if you care to.

Vegans and vegetarians and gluten-phobes rave about how healthy it is.

But what no one says is how versatile and tasty it is, not to mention, it’s easy to make!

Any time you would use rice (particularly white rice, since that’s just bad for you.) you can substitute quinoa.  It only takes about 10 minutes to make and you end up with fluffy perfect quinoa.  Even I didn’t manage to screw it up.

Like rice, it doesn’t have a very distinctive flavor of it’s own, which makes it perfect for just about anything.  It is a hidden protein, which means nice and filling, but still packed with nutrients which is good for little bellies.

As far as texture, I really enjoyed it.  Not firm, but not slimy or porridgey.  The grains are distinct, like rice, without being squishy.  I’m a real texture nut, there are plenty of things I won’t eat simply because of the texture.  (Evil mushrooms!)

I think it would be less likely to turn into confetti as well, which is always a good thing in my house.

A fall serving suggestion:

Cook up some acorn squash halves, make your quinoa (it’s easy, just 2:1 water to rinsed quinoa, simmer covered for 15 minutes), then toss your quinoa with some cranberries and cottage cheese or goat cheese.  Half a squash is more than enough for one person, since the quinoa is seriously filling.

Or toss it with some roasted fall veggies for a tasty treat as a side dish.

It’s good stuff.

Toilet Paper, How I Hate Thee

Toilet paper always seemed like a good idea to me.

It isn’t expensive.

Alone, I don’t go through that much.

It is convenient, as long as you have it.

Sure, it’s got chemicals in it and I’m rubbing those chemicals on rather sensitive places.  Yeah, it’s quite literally flushing money down the toilet.  But it’s necessary!  Right?

Well, I could use all natural toilet paper, but that’s honestly just not very pleasant.  It isn’t soft and it’s rather pricey.  Not really ideal in my world.  Not to mention, not readily available.

I am a cloth diaper advocate.  (Don’t worry, I won’t go into it.  For now.)  I use a menstrual cup.  I’m moving away from paper towels.  So why am I so stuck on toilet paper?

It never really occured to me to make a change until the fateful day we began potty training.  Potty training means that a small child needs to have unrestricted access to the bathroom.  Yes, the bathroom, with the toilet.  And the toilet paper.

Did you know that toilet paper, when wet, makes excellent decorations for mirrors and walls?  Yeah, me either.  It also creates serious clogs in toilets and sinks.  And when it is constantly being used to decorate and play with, you don’t have it when you need it.

But it is fun to play with.

WAY fun.

How different is it to use cloth wipes on myself instead of using chemical laden wet wipes and toilet paper?  Is it really that difficult to dampen the very same baby washcloths I used as wipes for Dillon for myself?  Is my butt worth any less than his?

Is washing a tiny basket of washcloths with the towels REALLY that much of a strain?  Towels, regardless of size, really need the same type of washing diapers do.  You know, hot water, no softener…

So I made the switch to family cloth.

I have a nice little set of metal baskets with rubber feet sitting on the back of the toilet.  One for cleans and one for dirty.  Metal baskets are nicely washable.  I get the little washcloths on sale, which means I currently have robots.  Yup, I’m really that cool.

I am not good at folding them so they look pretty and I bought enough so that I only have to wash once a week or so.  I just throw them in with sheets or towels.  It’s EASY.  It doesn’t involve any more laundry than I needed to do before.

And you know what?  They don’t tear or leave behind bits and they don’t clog my pipes.  So suck it up, I’m a cloth girl.