Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lotion Bars & Lip Balm

When I first heard of lotion bars, I thought they sounded...interesting, to say the least.  I wasn't sure if I would like using a solid bar as a moisturizer, but I figured I could handle giving it a try if it was healthier for our bodies.  I experimented a bit, making a few batches, and tweaking it along the way.

I came out with lotion bars that my husband and I both love!  The bars are in a solid state, but when you rub them between your hands, they warm just enough to coat your skin, creating a moisturizing barrier.  Because of the oil & wax, they do feel a little greasy at first. However, after a few minutes, it's all soaked in and your hands (or whatever you're moisturizing!) is so soft!  Another great thing about these lotion bars is that it doesn't wash away the second you wash your hands.  It seems like I can apply regular lotion to my hands all day long, but as soon as I wash my hands (which is a lot), it's all gone and needs to be applied again.  Not with these lotion bars!  I can use these bars, wash my hands, and the water just beads up, protecting my skin from drying out quickly.  Love this stuff!

You have the option of not adding any essential oils, but I will tell you that the smell of cocoa butter is fairly strong when you do that.  Personally, I love customizing the bars and having a variety of types & scents to choose from.  I have a selection of essential oil blends, so I chose a few and made various types of lotion bars.  These are just a few that I did:

*Muscle Relief (for my husband's back/shoulder pain)
*Tea Tree/Lavender (for healing)
*Goodnight Blend (for a restful sleep)

When I was making these bars, I decided to try the mixture as a lip balm, too.  It was great!  I actually love how it feels when you apply it, giving that moisture barrier, but not feeling heavy or sticky.  Just keep in mind you will want to use essential oils that are safe for your face.  I'm not that educated with EOs so I would suggest doing some research yourself rather than me giving you advice. :)

You can buy the empty lip balm containers on Amazon, as well as any shape of silicone molds for your bars.


I used a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients, which worked perfectly, but if you don't have a scale, measure it out as best as you can.  Just keep in mind, the more coconut oil, the softer the bars will be, and the more beeswax, the firmer they will be.  It worked best for me to have equal amounts of the three ingredients.  1:1:1 Ratio

Ingredients

20 g. organic cocoa butter, raw, unrefined
20 g. organic beeswax
20 g. organic coconut oil, cold-pressed, unrefined
essential oils, optional


1. Measure out your ingredients.


2. In a double boiler (or a glass bowl set over a sauce pan of water-just don't let the water touch the bottom of the bowl), heat over medium-high heat.


3. Let it heat and melt down, stirring occasionally.


*If you are putting the same essential oils in the entire batch, you can stir them in as soon as it's all melted.

*Since I made different types, I poured it into my molds (I used silicone cupcake liners) and dropped the different essential oils in each one, then stirred them up.  It's important to work quickly.  It sets up fast!

*With the leftover mixture, I just put the essential oil directly in the bowl, then used a clean, glass medicine dropper to fill the lip balm containers.

4. Once it's completely melted, remove from heat and pour it into your molds (see notes above about adding essential oils).  If you find that the mixture is setting too quickly, return it to the heat and melt again.


5. Leave them on the counter and let them cool completely until firm.


6. Once set, you can pop the bars out and store them in containers or use them right away!


My hubby and I have one on each side of the bed to use before we go to sleep.  I also apply mine throughout the day if needed, but he prefers to only use it at night so he doesn't have to deal with the greasiness.  He gets a little irked when his hands don't feel clean, so even though these lotion bars soak in quickly, he can't stand the feeling of it on his hands.  He says if he uses it at night, the greasiness is gone by the time he wakes up so he doesn't have to worry about it. :)


If you want my advice...try them.  Even if you don't like "greasiness", I think you will be pleasantly surprised on how great these lotion bars are.  You really only have to deal with the greasy feel for a couple minutes, and the benefits of how great these bars work make those minutes totally worth it! 

They are awesome for any dry spots.  Hands, elbows, knees, even your feet!  
Perfect timing since the flip-flops are back again! :)









Monday, April 20, 2015

Crock Pot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I'm not really sure why I waited so long to post this recipe.  I made it as a snack for the Superbowl and got some pretty great feedback.  It was just my husband, his brother, and me for the actual game, but I kept the leftovers in the fridge and when my family came to visit, I pulled it out and reheated it.  It was gone in no time and my brother even asked me for the recipe!


This is a super easy dip and well worth the minimal time it takes to make it!  We served it on toasted french baguette slices and with tortilla chips.  Both are fabulous. :)


It's as easy as mixing up most of the ingredients....


...then topping with the spinach and cooking until it's creamy. Easy peasy! :)


SPINACH DIP

8 oz. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
8-16 oz. cream cheese (depending on how creamy you want it)
12 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Combine all ingredients, except spinach, in the crock pot.
Stir as best you can.
Place spinach on top and cover.
Cook on HIGH for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to mix spinach in evenly with melting ingredients.
Once it's all melted and creamy, it's ready to go!
Serve while still warm with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices.







Monday, April 6, 2015

Antipasto Skewers w/balsamic glaze



Happy belated Easter, everyone! I know, for me at least, this year has been flying by quickly! There are endless things to do and it seems nearly impossible to find the time to sit and blog.  I mean, I definitely get a chance to sit, but by the time I get everything done that I need to do, I'm exhausted and too lazy to do anything other than mindless channel surfing. Unless The Middle is on, then that's where it stays. I have a slight obsession lately. I can't decide if I like it so much because it always makes me laugh, because Axl 's mannerisms remind me of my brother, or because it's just a relatable show that seems more like a reality show than any actual "reality" show. It really doesn't matter, I guess. I just like it. :)


Anyway, back to the blogging bit. I made these for Easter at my parents' house.  They were super easy to throw together, I was able to make them the night before, and then when we were ready to serve them on Sunday, I loaded them on the platter and drizzled 'em with the balsamic glaze.


Super easy and they were a big hit!
 I liked how they were so versatile. You can really just find what you like best and put it together. I decided to make mine with two of each ingredient (besides the basil, I only had one leaf on each skewer) to make it easier for "choosing", but if you know someone hates olives, it's easy to accomodate. :)


As far as the glaze goes, I just tweaked it until it tasted how I wanted it to.  I just kept testing it by drizzling it on a piece and trying it. I may have tested it more than necessary...hehe.


Ingredients

three cheese tortellini
cherry or grape tomatoes
deli-style hard salami, thinly sliced
fresh mozzarella, balled or cubed
fresh basil leaves
black olives
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
skewers

Directions

Prepare tortellini according to package directions.
Set aside to cool.
Choose which order you want things and start skewering!
Cover and refrigerate until serving.
When ready to serve, mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your liking. (I did about 1/3 c. vinegar with a splash of olive oil.)
Drizzle over skewers and serve.

(With the extra pieces, I sliced the basil leaves up and tossed it all in a bowl and drizzled with the glaze. Very yummy salad!)






Monday, March 23, 2015

Italian Orzo Soup

My husband isn't usually a huge fan of soups. When we were first married he would always respond to my question "Should we try to make some ______ soup for dinner tonight?" with a resounding "Ugh. No...I don't really like soup". That left me with little options as far as soup is concerned. However, since I'm a soup lover, over the years I've weaseled in a soup here and there. Now when I ask him about soup, his response is generally "Yeah, we can try it." He even asked me to make this particular soup a second time already! I'm okay with that. :)

*My husband noted that this soup would be really good with some Italian sausage thrown in, too. So if you have some and try it, let me know how you like it! 



Ingredients

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 c. carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 c. orzo pasta, uncooked
2 handfuls fresh spinach
splash of heavy cream, optional
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven.
Saute onion for a minute or two.
Add carrots, celery, and garlic.
Season with salt & pepper.
Saute until celery is beginning to look translucent.
Add the stock and tomatoes. 
Bring to boil.
Add orzo.
Turn heat down and simmer 8-10 minutes.
Add cream, if using.
Stir in spinach.
Cook until wilted (1-2 minutes)
Serve.


We served our soup with a slice of homemade Dutch Oven Artisan Bread. It was pretty tasty. :)










Friday, March 20, 2015

Replacing Wax---the easy way!

"Um...how about No!"
"Please!"
"Ugh...they stink!"
" Honey, honestly, they don't have an offensive smell!"
" Pet stores smell like hamster cages.  Ick!"
"I promise I will keep their cage clean."
"Fine!"

That about sums up my concern when my child at heart husband announced he wanted to get a couple of iguanas.  Expressing my concern was necessary as I really dislike the smell of pet stores. After our discussion :), we agreed we'd give it a try. Although they don't make the house smell like the hamster cages I associate with walking in one of those stores, I still find I am not particularly fond of it of what it does smell like. He was right, it's not a bad smell.  However, I definitely wouldn't say it smells like a bed of roses either. ;) 

With that said, I wanted some "smelly ideas" to keep my living room (yes, they live in my living room) smelling nice. I absolutely love my wax pots, but I don't like cleaning out the wax when the smell is gone.  It's just messy and annoying.

NOT ANYMORE!  I found the following idea and it's fantastic!

Now, we're both happy.  He gets his crazy pet and it smells better!

All you need is:

A wax pot
"Expired" wax
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil (optional)

(Sorry for the horrible pictures ;)

                                                                                                                                                           

1.  Keep your lamp plugged in so the wax stays liquefied.

      

      2. Throw a couple cotton balls in the wax.
           
  

3.  Let sit for a minute to soak up the majority of the wax. 


4.  Use a few more cotton balls to wipe out the excess.  I throw the cotton balls on a little piece of aluminum foil to be sure there won't be a waxy mess, but that's up to you. 


5.  Add your new wax cube. DONE!  The room smells good again. ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich

One of the hardest things about quick meals for me is keeping a variety so we don't get bored. We keep struggling with going back and forth from a regular (and somewhat unhealthy) diet to full veganism. There are times when I am so on board with being vegan and we do REALLY well for a week, but then one day, I can't imagine not being able to enjoy a bowl of raspberry cheesecake ice cream after a meal of grilled meats, probably smothered in cheese or sour cream. I'm like a squirrel with bipolar disorder.

When we first made "the switch" last summer, one of the first things my husband and I talked about were sandwiches. At the time he was going through a big sandwich phase. Not that his sandwiches were big (at least not ALL of them), but more the fact that he ate sandwiches almost every day. Sometimes twice a day. As far as vegan options go for sandwiches, we were a bit disappointed. Our minds weren't broadened past veggie sub's and pb&js. His Mom told us one of their favorites was a toasted grain bread with peanut butter, craisins, fresh spinach, and green apple slices. Amazing! And now we have another under our belts. Quite literally, in fact.


This sandwich fills some big shoes when it comes to yummy, filling, and protein packed vegan sandwiches. It has a texture similar to a hearty egg salad sandwich with a dose of crunchiness from the bell peppers and cashews. It is something you just have to try. :)


CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD SANDWICH
This recipe can vary with each batch. Test yours each time you make it. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and if you need a little more creaminess, don't be afraid to add another dollup of thinned hummus or some mayo. Vegan or not. ;)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 c. garlic hummus
filtered water
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. sweet bell peppers, diced
1/4 c. cashews, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1-2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste


DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, mix hummus with a little water until thinned to the consistency of a thick soup.
Add the lemon juice and your seasonings.
Toss in the raisins, peppers, cashews, cilantro and chives.
Mix well.
Add your chickpeas and mash with a fork until they are mostly mashed. (You still want some chunkiness to it.)
Stir it all together and place between two slices of hearty whole grain bread before serving. 
*Fills about 3-4 sandwiches.


Now that we have another variation to add to our collection of vegan options, maybe we can continue working up to more than one successful week at a time. :)







Friday, February 20, 2015

Burrito with Homemade Chipotle Adobo Sauce

   






It's amazing how much a sauce can affect a dish.  Looking through different recipes, I came across this one- Chipotle Adobo Sauce.  Having never used the chili peppers, I was a little hesitant at first.  However, realizing it only took a few ingredients, and understanding if it was nasty, we could resort back to our stand by of sour-cream and salsa, I decided to move forward.  Very glad I did.  It made just our standard burrito reach another dimension.  We will definitely be exploring new homemade  condiments on future dishes.   

1/2 c coconut yogurt
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, deseeded
1/2 tsp. adobo sauce
1 1/2 - 2 cloves garlic
1 T. fresh lime
1/8 tsp. cumin 
  

Start by gathering all your ingredients for the sauce. 

 
1.  Start by cutting the adobo chili in half and and carefully scraping the seeds out.


2.  Next, in a 1 serving blender (or whatever you have on hand) add the greek coconut yogurt.


3.Throw in your coarsely chopped garlic. 


4.  Next, squeeze fresh lime juice. 


5.  Add to mixture.


6.  Lastly, add your cumin. 


7.  Blend until creamy. 


8.  Looks yummy. 


9.  Prepare rice per box instructions. 


10.  Rinse black beans. 


11.  Chop up any veggies you would like to use.  We did pepper, tomato, avocado, lettuce, chives, cilantrol, and corn.  We also spread hummus on the burrito shell which was great. 

Pile how you would like and enjoy!