Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homemade Beauty Products

I'm not the sort of person who is really into beauty products. I don't say that in a braggadocious way, rather that I become so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff out there I say forget it. And it always seems like as soon as you like a product they discontinue it, or change it, it's all just a hassle for me. 

The same could be said for the huge amount of homemade beauty things you find recipes for online. Overwhelming. 

So I've been sorting through, finding good homemade beauty products that are BASICS. Stuff you can keep in your bathroom, not make every single time you want to use it. Stuff that wont give me cancer and make my eyelashes fall out.

Bath Salts
First of all, everyone must have bath salts. There is no comparison to the way you smell with them and without. But, you know, just put them in your tub. Don't snort them.

Simple Soap
This is my "homemade" soap. 50% Dr. Bronners Lavender castille soap, 50% water. Put it in a pretty wine bottle. This is for my body and my hair (I still use store conditioner).

This, believe it or not, is my mascara. It's olive oil, a couple drops of eucalyptus essential oil, and lavender. The essential oil is because I have allergies. Some people like those with light eyelashes, also say they mix the oil with powdered charcoal.

Speaking of charcoal...go to your local art store. Buy a charcoal pencil. You now have new eyeliner. A fraction of the cost, much better for your skin.

Hair Conditioner
 Olive oil and chamomile flowers. This is for my hair. I have oily hair, so I only use it for my dead ends, putting it on an hour or so before I shower. If you have dry hair though you can use it on your whole scalp, or dandruff problems, really rub it into your scalp.

Baking soda is invaluable in the bathroom.This bit mixed with lavender is my deodorant. I tried so many kinds of organic deodorant after learning about the parabens in most store kinds, but none of them worked well. Baking soda does though. I take a cotton ball, wet it, dunk it in the soda, and rub it on.

Teeth Whitener
I also use baking soda to whiten my teeth. Just scrub it on, let it sit for 15minutes, and then brush it off. My grandma used to brush her teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. I don't know if I'm brave enough to do that.

And finally...sand. I know, kind of gross looking. But ya know what. It is amazing. Absolutely amazing so exfoliating my skin. Of course you probably say duh it is, but it's still gross. Maybe, but I don't think so.  I get a tiny bit, like an eighth of a teaspoon, mix it with my facial soap and scrub away. My skin always feels baby soft for several days after.

I wish I could show you a picture of my facial soap but it's down to a sliver and looking kind of gross. So Ill show you someone else's picture.

I use a french clay soap which I buy from a local gal (although you can try to make it yourself with this recipe). Obviously if you have a different skin type you'll need a different kind of soap but try buying it locally from someone who uses natural ingredients. All those chemicals do not nice skin make.

And and bronzer. Start with arrowroot powder (found in your grocery spice section) and add coco powder until you get the color you'd like. If you want a liquid foundation, add some lotion to it. 

Check out more homemade makeup at WellnessMama.

Printable Cheat Sheets

Here are the cheat sheets that you cannot do without. Print them off, laminate them, frame them, keep them where you can see. Cause if you have a house, youre gonna need them!

Kitchen Measurements and Cuts

Laundry charts

And for the very organized among us 

Vintage Values: Cooking with Leftovers

I really hate wasting food. But let's be honest, leftovers can often be...unappetizing at best, gross and moldy at worst. Being a thrifty homemaker is almost impossible without finding something to do with these though. So let's talk about how to use leftovers in a more yummy way.
Fruit getting mushy? Blend it and freeze into popsicles. Even if you have enough to only make one, itll be worth it ;)

Good leftovers really start with good shopping and menu planning. I never make a casserole, stew, or gumbo as a recipe from raw ingredients. These things were developed to use up small bits of leftover and help them go further, and that's exactly what I do. So my menu would look something like:
          Monday: Pork Roast with potatoes and grilled veggies
          Tuesday: Pork roast casserole with veggies and egg noodles in a cheese sauce
         Wednesday: Pork Stew with leftover veggies, egg noodles, potatoes in beef broth.
Not all meals will last for three days. Depending on our hunger level, whether we eat things for lunch or dinner, and how much meat I buy. Generally though, most meat will last at least two days.

When you're shopping, it's important to not just think WHAT you're buying, but what quantities. For instance, we love to have cooked greens, but they rarely, if ever, get eaten as leftovers. So when I buy then, I'm sure to buy JUST ENOUGH for one meal. The same thing for salads. I cannot get my family to re-eat a salad for more than 2 meals, so I never buy more than 1/2lb of loose leaf lettuce at one time. Not only does this help my grocery bill up front, it also helps prevent throwing out food just cause no one eats it.

Small leftover amounts of stock, sauces, cooking juice, or gravy can always be easily frozen in ice trays or leftover jars. I never throw out cooking juice from pans, its perfect to give leftovers a boost.

This goes the other way for some other foods though. Corn, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and others are so easy to pop into something else that I make sure to cook more of them up front. Honey roasted beets and carrots can be easily chopped up and added to a bit of tomato sauce, garlic, onion, and balsamic vinegar to make pasta.
Speaking of buying larger amounts, be sure to keep things like pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes, and any other kind of grain/starch on hand. It's amazing how good some meals like pot roast can taste cold on a sandwich.

Pot roast done gone to heaven

When it comes to meat, the biggest piece you can but teach yourself and your family to eat less. People in the U.S. tend to over-eat quite a bit with meat. Really, an adult male only need 3oz. a day. That means a piece about the size of your palm once a day. If you want meat for lunch and dinner, halve that size. Children need even less than this. And if you plan on making a stew or gumbo, be sure to keep the bone! It adds flavor. MetaGiven's has this to say about meat: "Have a butcher saw a small whole ham in two and cut two half-inch steaks from the center to be broiled for the first night's dinner. For the next day, roast the butt end. Another day, prepare a broiled dinner with the shank end, or cut off thin slices to pan broil for breakfast or for sandwiches, and finally, use the bone for bean or pea soup."

So your weekly meal should be built like this to utilize and make it last:
Day 1: Small piece of meat, mostly veggies, small side of grain/starch
Day 2: Leftover meat diced and added to veggies, large amount of grain/starch
Day 3: All leftover meats, veggies, and grain/starch cooked in broth for gumbo or stew (Here's how to make a wonderful gumbo).

You know how to utilize thanksgiving leftovers, now apply that to your daily cooking.

As I said before, your meal may not make it this far. But that's not a bad thing. Your first emphasis should be not wasting food, and your second should be stretching meals. Ending with a stew that's mostly veggies and grains is perfect for our family, since this is the only way my children and husband will accept a protein-less meal. If all the meat is gone, I just add in beans or mushrooms instead.

Here are some more tips from MetaGivens:
"A small rubber scrapper should be used to remove every trace of batter, dough, or sauce, etc., from bowls and pans before they are placed in the sink for washing. Dry bread, rolls, and cake should be made into crumbs instead of being discarded or allowed to mold. The good outer envelope leaves of cabbage, lettuce should be saved and added to spinach or other cooked greens. Fruits or vegetables should be pared as thinly as possible, if at all. Chicken feet and necks, as well as other parts of the animal  carcass, even though they may contain little visible meat, may be used for preparing delicious soups."

Really, ou can put about anything in broth and it will taste amazing.

And the most important thing to remember with leftovers is to check your fridge and pantry often. It is incredibly easy to forget what you have, what quantities, and how old it is. There's nothing so frustrating as reaching for leftovers and seeing that they're moldy and should've been used many days ago. Cooking well and being thrifty doesn't take much time, but it does take some thought.

Basics of Cajun Cooking

If you have a family no doubt by now you've learned to cook a lot when you do cook, but leftovers can get stale and boring really fast. In the summertime, there is no better use for leftovers than cajun cooking. At least, if you're cooking seasonally there isn't.
All of those great summer staples, peppers, tomatoes, corn, are perfect for throwing into a pot and making gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee (also known as smothering), and po boys.  Most of these, all you need to do is make a roux (instructions below), add just about anything cooked or uncooked that you already have, add some seasongings and rice, and voila! brand new meal. My record so far for making leftovers last is one week by having a roast with a salsa like topping, then turning it into jambalaya, and finally adding broth and more rice to create a gumbo.

The differences between Cajun and Creole cooking can be a bit confusing, especially since each means something completely different depending on which region you are in. So let me just give you the historical basics...

Cajun food comes originally from France. The Acadians were a group of French immigrants who landed in the Nova Scotia area. They spoke with an odd almost English accent to their French and did things like pronounce j as "dj." Therefore they called themselves Acadjians, which after they traveled further south and started a community around the Louisiana area, had been shortened to simply cajuns or acajuns.

Canadian acadian french. Weird.

Cajun french is pretty odd too.

Cajuns form of cooking uses many french techniques with the local food found in the Louisiana area. This is how you get roux bases for gumbos and stews, as well as many other french styled foods, like croquettes, and the adoption of celery, onion, and bell pepper and as their mire piox (a traditional French base of onion, garlic, and celery.) They also like bouillon, and boudin, as well as many others french favorites.
Mostly their food is fresh game or seafood served over rice with cayenne pepper and/or black pepper, sometimes file as well, and lightly cooked veggies on the side or combine in the dish.

Although many of the ingredients and techniques in creole food is the same as cajun, creole is a much broader term. Creole is the French word for "native," although it doesn't mean native like Native American, but rather to refer to a European descendent who was born in the United States. There is a Spanish equivalent, Criollo, and Portugese, Crioulo. "Creoles" are found all up and down the Americas, and so Creole food represents this combination of cultures. You can commonly think of Creole food as a cajun base with more  Spanish, African, Portugese, and Mexican influences.
Because Creole were often better off than Acadians, their pocketbooks had a wider range for more kinds, and better kinds of food.
For instance, a cajun roux is typically made with lard, while a Creole roux is more likely to contain olive oil.
Because of this, creole food is a bit more refined, with ingredients like sugar, cream, European herbs and garlic, and quality meats and seafood, rather than the shellfish and game that is common with cajun food. This is where those wonderful roasted pecans originated from.

However, the most basic ingredient in Cajun or Creole cooking is the roux. Here's how to make it:

First you're going to need some fat or oil. Really you can use about anything, but the most common is either butter or olive oil. Here's my one stick of butter, equivalent to 1/2 cup oil.

When the butter is nice and hot and melted, turn the heat to medium, and add 1/4 cup flour 1tablespoon at a time. You really have to add it slowly and whisk it fast, or else it will create small cooked flour balls.

The exact measurements for the butter and flour really vary. I prefer a thicker sauce, but others like it to be thinner. A good rule of thumb is when you can stir and see the bottom of the pan but the sauce quickly fills it in, it's thick enough.

Keep the heat on medium and cook until it begins to change color. You really need to keep an eye on it, and continuously stir or it'll burn. Remember, it will continue cooking once the heat is off, so take it off as soon as you think its done.
Again, there's lots of variation about what color the roux should be when it's done. A standard roux is usually described as a peanut butter color when it's done.

All three colors of roux shown here are correct. A blonde, medium, and dark roux. But when you see a recipe say "roux," go for the medium color.

After the roux is done, add onions, garlic, and celery (or celery flakes). I bougght some sausage, grabbed tomatoes from the garden, and chopped up leftover fajitas to add to this gumbo. Finally, add salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, and file (if you have it). Simmer for an hour or so. Add rice before serving. Yummy!

Seasonal Foraging Recipes: Wild Berries

Wild Berries
Wild berries like these are great if you want an easy, safe intro to foraging. Berries that are like raspberries and blackberries, with small globes around a central stem are never poisonous, and so there should be no uncertainty about eating them. These wild blackberries grow all around us, as do black raspberries, and they make great substitutes in anything you'd use cultivated berries for.


This is a very easy recipe from the great Julia Child. Obviously you just substitute the wild berries for cherries.


Julia Child's Clafoutis
serves 6-8
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries, pitted
1/3 cup sugar
powdered sugar


In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafoutis is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

Tarts and Jellies
Wild berries are also great to make jelly with, especially as many of them have enough pectin to form jelly without gelatin.

If you are going to seal the jars, sanitize them in boiling water first.

Rinse the berries and dry lightly. Crush them in the pan, and add an equal amount of sugar (ie. one cup of berries = 1 cup of sugar). I use about 2 cups of berries per jar.

Cook the jam until it reaches 220 degrees F. I've found this is the easiest way to determine when jelly is done. And be sure not to let it burn! You have to be stirring almost constantly to prevent the berries from burning and sugar from hardening.

Put into jars with 1/4" headspace. Put in hot water bath to seal.

Now take a sheet of puff pastry and blind bake it at 350F for 20 minutes. While still relatively warm, spread a thick layer of jelly on. Add washed berries on top, and sprinkle with slivered almonds and sugar. Voila! A wonderful tart that is super easy to make!

Just be sure to serve it with a little bit of fresh whipped cream!

These and many more recipes can be tried with all sorts of seasonal recipes. I really love plum cherry jam, and even doing simple things like sprinkling some of the smaller berries on a salad.

Happy Eating!

Orange Cake Recipe

I always make this lovely cake for my son's birthday. Like most cakes you can make this in a variety of ways, as a layer with frosting or cupcakes, or like I did, as a bundt. 

Grate 2 oranges. Chop the zest. Melt 1/2 cup of butter (half a stick) over low heat. Add 3/4 cup of superfine sugar, and juice from one orange. Beat in 2 eggs, 1 cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and add the zest. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees for 20 minutes for a conventional cake, or ten minutes for bundt. Cool. 
Sift 1 cup of confection sugar and juice from  other orange into pan. Heat until sugar melts, then spread on top of cake.

I decorated mine with flowers. My son did not like it but I thought it was pretty!

What I'm Cooking Now

Lime sugar-

This is one of the best and easiest ways to make a snack for the children.
Grate the zest of two limes into one cup of sugar.
Dunk papaya, granny smith apples, or mangoes into it! Really, this is amazingly good!

Wisteria green beans

Our green beans haven't quite come up yet and the wisteria has already bloomed, so getting both of these ready at the same time isn't always least not when it's been cold as late as it has been around here. Either way, easy, yummy way to perk up green beans

Mix olive oil, a small bit of balsamic vinegar, and honey together
Add green beans, salt, pepper
Carefully pick the center out of the wisteria. You just want the petals. Chop them up (not too much or they're bruise) and sprinkle them on top

Strawberry tart

Look at that! And it only took me about five minutes to make!

Blind bake puff pastry round
After it cools, add whipped cream (please do this yourself. Cool Whip is not whipped cream)
Add strawberries
Melt about 1 cup of chocolate chips in the double boiler or microwave and drizzle on top

Chard pie
This one is from We have so much chard right now, I'm trying to find any way to cook it. This pie is a wonderful way to do it.

Arugula pizza

We also have a lot of arugula right now. My daughter made this for me for mother's day. She just used a pre-made crust, but you can make your own if you'd like.

Put basil pesto on crust.
Add thinly sliced tomatoes
Top with fontina cheese and bake until cheese melts
Sprinkle small arugula leaves on top

The other pizza pictured is broccoli, artichoke, tomato. It was also wonderful.

Aluminum Foil Bean Bake
I made this to take camping with us. Wrap black beans, corn, zucchini, diced onions, cherry tomatoes, and top with adobo sauce and pepper jack cheese. Let it cool in ashes or over a grate for twenty minutes or so.

Vintage Values: Cutting Hair Yourself

This is something I've seen lots of people say they wish they could do. I completely get it. For women especially, going to the salon is an expensive trip, and it almost has to be someplace nice or a little chica right out of school will massacre your locks to do some trendy style she wants to try. I usually follow the ever other cut rule, which really helps save, w hile also giving me a professional "template" to follow when I'm trimming it up on my own. My children though always have their hair cut by me.

It;s actually really easy to do, but it does take practice. If you have a long haired dog, or an old doll, that'd be good to practice on. Even when I first started doing it I still had to deal with a couple bad haircuts (my hairdresser would scold and scold me) but now I can do it really fast, and well, enough so that I've gotten very surprised compliments from my hairdresser.

Unless your hair is really short, long hair is incredibly easy to cut.
I think it's easier to do wet, and then touch up after I've dried it.

  • Brush it out, and pull about 2/3 of your hair up, leaving 1/3 down and ready to be cut.

  • figure out about how short you want it, and then actually cut it about 1/2 inch longer than that, an inch if you're going to do layers.
  • Right now you're just going for a straight cut, so do very small sections at a time, and pull the hair straight with your two fore-fingers. Take a bit that you just cut into the next section so you know how short to cut each additional section.
  • Keep coming back to check your work by pulling down on the first section you did and the last section you did to make sure they come to about the same length.

  • Pull down another 1/3 of your hair. Continue cutting as before, this time using the last 1/3 as a guide for the length. If you are cutting layers make this 1/3 just a tiny bit shorter than the last layer. Seriously, tiny. Like 1/8 inch shorter.
  • Pull down the last 1/3 of of hair and cut.
  • To make your hair lay properly, take a comb, and brush out a thin section of vertical hair. It should make kind of a triangle shape in your fingers. Cut off the triangle so it's a straight edge.

  • Continue around your head.
  • Double check your work. If any spots look choppy, pull them out and trim vertically again. Just don't do it too much.

I always find bangs to be a bit of a challenge, but they grow out quickly, so if you mess it upthere's not much harm done. Bangs can be straight across, thick, small wispy, or diagonal and fading into your hair.
Decide how you want them to look, brush out a small bit at a time, and cut.

Boys are really easy to cut. Just imagine a horseshoe shape going along the top of their head, with the straight part at their face. Brush this imaginary horseshoe to the front and clip all around it with shears. Then cut this horseshoe a little bit longer.

Boys without shears:
My son does not like the clippers, so I have to scissor cut his hair. This is really hard to do, so I would only recommend it if you have been practicing cutting a lot.

  • You're going to brush forward the horseshoe shape.Just like with girls hair, you are going to pull out the sides vertically, and cut straight across. You have to be very precise, and cut straight!

  • The top horseshoe shape it cut by pulling it up, and just giving it a trim, making sure to keep all of it the same length.
  • Don't forget to trim the edges and their sideburns. Just straight across, and not too short.