Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Homemade Toothpaste

So by now you've realized I am a huge DIY-er.  It's not just about saving money, which is great, but a lot of the choices I make have to do with health.  If I can make something myself and the result is healthier AND saves me money, then I'm a happy camper for sure.  So when it came time to buy toothpaste a while back, I stopped and thought, "There's got to be a cheaper AND healthier way to clean teeth."  So, as always, Google was my friend.  After reading several different articles and trying a few different recipes, I came up with this one.

Homemade Toothpaste

What You Need:

3 Tbls. Baking Soda (a natural antiseptic, mildly abrasive to remove build-up)
2 Tbls. Coconut Oil (anti-bacterial, makes it paste-like)
1 Tbl. Xylitol (a natural sweetener, prevents cavities)
1 tsp. Hydrogen Peroxide (kills those bad breath germs)
20 drops Essential Oil (for flavor, Peppermint and Mint are good, I use Tangerine for the kids)

What You Do:

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork until a paste forms.  (It takes a minute for the coconut oil to soften)
Store in an airtight container.
Use a pea-size amount for teeth-brushing for a super clean mouth!

I have been using this for several months and have been very pleased with it.  The baking soda taste was a little off-putting at first, but you get used to it after a while.  The Xylitol you can find sold in bulk in most health food stores.  I haven't priced this out yet, but I'm sure it is MUCH cheaper than commercial toothpaste.

Why make your own toothpaste?

Well, besides cost, the more I learn about the chemicals that are in almost every cleaning product like laundry soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, etc., the more concerned I become.  Especially when you start to see the connection to the astounding rise in cancers and diseases like Alzheimer's.  We are putting this stuff on and in our bodies every day.  I know we can't protect ourselves from every single toxin out there, and yes, we are ALL going to die eventually, but there are some simple things that everyone can do to lessen the exposure and live a happier healthier life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pumpkin-Cranberry-Pecan Granola Bars

These granola bars actually started over a year ago.  Really, they did.  With a little seed, to be exact.  Last year we grew our first sugar-pie pumpkins.  They were so delicious!  It was awesome to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner from our own little pumpkins.  Most of the pumpkin puree got used up in making pies and muffins and cookies, but one jar was tucked away in the freezer for a day such as this.  I was digging around in there and saw the frosty dark-orange jar and decided some pumpkin-y, spicy, chewy goodness was in order.  Aha! Granola bars.  I really like making homemade granola bars.  They are very simple to make and so much healthier than store-bought.  They are also incredibly versatile.   I’ve made all sorts of combos like Chocolate-Cranberry, Apricot-Almond-Coconut, and Apple Cinnamon.  But today was all about the pumpkin.

Pumpkin-Cranberry-Pecan Granola Bars

What You Need:

3 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves (I use 1 tsp. because I’m a clove freak)
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 beaten egg
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (homegrown is best!)

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Spoon into a well-buttered 9x13 baking dish.
Press evenly and firmly with buttered hands (because this stuff is sticky!)
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until all golden brown and puffy.

Now the hard part- Wait! You must wait until they are cool to cut them. Otherwise they will crumble to pieces.  I learned that by experience, lol.  Of course the crumbs taste just as fabulous.  So now that you’ve resisted the urge to mess with them, you can cut them up into bars or squares or whatever shape you like, and store them in the pantry in an airtight container.  I can’t tell you how long they will keep because homemade granola bars are gone pretty fast around here!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Autumn Throw

Yes, I know it's spring, but I actually started this blanket last fall!  It just took me a few seasons to finish it.  I have this fabulous crochet book and it had the directions for this popcorn motif.  I thought it would be really cute to make a bunch and sew them together and make a blanket.  I have made baby blankets before, so I thought this wouldn't be that much more difficult.  Well, it was actually pretty tricky.  Part of the reason it took me so long to finish was that I gave up on it for a while.  But I hate not finishing projects, so I pulled myself together and got through it.  The yarn is Vanna's Choice in lovely fall colors of Cranberry, Olive, Mustard, Chocolate, and Rust, all sewn together in a random pattern with Beige.  The final effect is pretty, and the popcorn motif is really fun, but I don't know that I would go through it all again.  You never know though, maybe there will be a spring blanket finished by Christmas!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hamburger Buns

I tried my hand at homemade hamburger buns the other day using this recipe.  They came out surprisingly well.  They were very tasty with a nice texture that held up to the burger's juiciness.  Plus they were super easy since the dough was made in the bread machine.  I increased the yeast to 2 tsp. and decreased the sugar to 2 T.  I also substituted one cup of the white flour with whole wheat.  I will definitely make these again!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Strawberry Heaven

Can you see a theme of strawberries developing? Lol.  They were on sale for 1.33/lb.  That is a rockin' deal, especially when they were actually ripe and sweet.  So hence the pie, syrup, and of course jam!  I LOVE strawberry jam.  It is my "favoritist" rivaled only by blueberry.  But since I doubt I'll ever live to see a day when blueberries are 1.33/lb., (why are they so darned expensive anyway?)  I mostly make strawberry jam in spring/summer and blackberry in fall.  There is something so very fundamentally comforting about making jam. It's something people have done for generations, preserving all the goodness of summer to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.  It is especially nice to be able to pop open a jar of strawberry heaven in the dead of winter and feel like you're eating a bit of sunshine.  If you've never made jam before, you've got to try it.  If you don't think you can manage it on your own, find an older women and ask her to teach you.  Or get a group of friends together and have a "jam session".  It may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy.  The taste is phenomenally better than store-bought and you will be "preserving" a tradition that you can pass down to your children :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let Them Eat Pie!

As promised, here is the recipe for the Strawberry Pie I made for Easter.  We had so many strawberries I actually made another one.  It turned much out prettier because I remembered the egg wash!

Strawberry-Balsamic Pie

What You Need:

double pie crust (I like this recipe from Simply Recipes)
2 lbs. of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and thickly sliced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup cornstarch
egg wash ( 1 egg + 1 T. water, beaten together)

What You Do:

In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Mix until well coated.
Let sit for 1 hour.
Get your oven going at 350 degrees.
Strain the strawberries, reserving the liquid.
Return the berries to the bowl and sprinkle in the cornstarch, mixing thoroughly.
Line the pie plate with half of the pie crust.
Pour in the strawberries and top with the other half of the crust.
Crimp edges, then brush the top with egg wash.
Prick holes in the crust with a fork to allow steam to escape.
Bake on a sheet pan (to catch drips) in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes
Allow to cool for AT LEAST 2 hours before cutting, 4 is better.
I'm sure this would be delicious a la mode!

Strawberry-Balsamic Syrup

Now you're asking, "What am I supposed to do with all this strawberry liquid?"  Well, I certainly didn't want to throw it away, so I made pancake syrup out of it.  Simply bring the liquid to boiling in a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes.  Then reduce heat and allow to reduce until it is nice and thick.  Bottle it up and you have a yummy new syrup to try.  We had this on our pancakes on Saturday and it was really, really good. The Balsamic gives it a nice twist.

So there it is!  If any of you make it I would love to get feedback or suggestions as this is a recipe I just made up as I went along.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

I really don't mind doing laundry.  I'm lucky to have a good washer and dryer that do all the work for me.  What I do mind, however, is the ridiculous price of commercial laundry detergent.  Yes, I know it works well and smells nice, but I just can't stomach paying $16 for chemical filled blue goo in an orange plastic bottle that will most likely end up in the landfill.  Fortunately, I learned how to make my own laundry soap.  I know you're thinking, "Isn't making soap all complicated and don't you have to use lye?"  Nope, not laundry soap.  It really is pretty simple, I promise.  So let's get started!

Homemade Laundry Soap

What You Need:

1 gallon water
1 ounce Fels Naptha Soap
1/4 cup Borax
1/4 cup Washing Soda
(I find the soap, Borax and washing soda all side by side in the laundry aisle at our Fred Meyer.)
20 drops Essential Oils (I use Lavender and Rosemary)
1 gallon container ( I saved an old laundry soap bottle)

What You Do:

In a large pot, heat 2 cups of the water.
Grate 1 ounce of the soap.  (I know, it looks just like cheese!)
Add the soap to the water and stir until the soap is completely melted.
Add the borax...
 then the washing soda, and stir until well disolved.

Remove from heat and add the rest of the water.

Using a stick blender, blend until well combined.
Add essential oils and blend again.
Pour into your container and let it cool.  It will form into a sort of gel. 
 Now put a cute label on it and your done!
Use 1 cup per load. Shake well before each use. 

That's it!  It's that simple.  And it only takes about 15 minutes to make.  Still nervous?  If I tell you that it only costs about 75 cents to make will it sway you a bit?  Really.  75 cents.  And it works pretty good.  Granted, it's not as powerful as the store stuff.  You might have to scrub out a few stubborn stains by hand, but that is a trade off I am happy to make for that kind of savings and peace of mind knowing what's on my clothes and therefore on my skin.  Happy washing!