Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review and a DIY Project: Homemade Lotion

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I have become a DIY addict of sorts.  I kidded my husband that one of these days, I’ll be standing in Walmart looking at the toilet paper…telling myself…”yeah, I can make that…better!” Ok, well…maybe not yet…

I started out making my own hand soap, from Heavenly Homemakers, which we love.  Then I started making our laundry soap here, as well as our own dish soap and spray cleaner.  Last summer we started making our own lotion…and I just ordered stuff to make both bar soap and shampoo bars.  I am still a rookie at this stuff…and I have alot to learn…but we have a good start and I’m hooked.  My reasons for adding this to my already full plate:  1)  It’s fulfilling to be able to be more self sufficient.  2)  Fun activities with your kids.  3)  A non-toxic alternative in a very toxic world.  4) little/no plastic packaging or waste.  5).  Cost/frugality…and 6)  ….just because I can.

Ok, so back to the aforementioned lotion.  I got this GREAT book for my birthday: “Making It:  Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World”  by my favorite “Urban Homestead” couple Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.

I love this book.  They break down projects from “Day to Day”, “Week to Week”, “Month to Month”, etc.  The book covers everything from composting, beekeeping, gardening, making your own mead wine, and hygiene items like…well…lotion (and more)!

My daughter and I tackled the recipe for “Silky Cream” first.  She later entered it as a 4-H project in our county fair, and won a blue ribbon for it.  In fact, the judge was so impressed she told her that she was going to try it herself…

The ingredients that you will need:

6 oz olive oil (I used cheapy olive oil, even the book outlines that this is fine)

2 oz coconut oil (for personal use, I get my coconut oil here)

1 oz organic beeswax, chunks or pastilles (I initially got mine here, but was later lucky enough to find a beekeeper who sells beeswax – and that was a much better deal!)

10-20 drops essential oil (we used Aura Cacia’s Tranquility but you could use whatever you want)

1 c. tepid water (distilled, filtered or rainwater is best)

A clean dry jar, enough to hold 2 cups of cream.  I will add that using a wide mouth mason quart jar is a smart bet.  The small mouth ones…not such a smart bet.  Live and learn.

Measure and combine the oils and wax in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup.  Pour in the olive oil until you reach the 6 ounce line, then add the coconut oil until the oil level rises to the 8 ounce line.  Add the beeswax until the liquid reaches the 9 ounce level.  Then put the cup in a sauce pan of simmering water.

Heat the oil and wax over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the wax is totally melted.  Take the pan off the heat and stir in the essential oils.  If you’re not going to start mixing right away, let the melted oils and wax sit in the water bath, off the heat, so it stays warm.  While the wax is melting, pour 2 cups or so of boiling water into a blender to prewarm it.  This will stop the wax from solidifying on the blender walls.  Measure out 1 cup of room temp water.  Be prepared for the next step as it happens quickly.

Empty the boiling water out of the blender or mixing bowl.  Pour in the hot oil.  Start the blender and pour in the water in a steady stream.  I took the top removable plastic handle out of the lid and poured the water in through there.

The oil will turn to cream right away.  Some water may not get mixed in and will make the blender “choke”.  Stop the blender, scrape down the sides, and start again.  Repeat until it is smooth and blended.  Stir around to make sure there’s no water hiding in the bottom of the blender.  Stop when it is smooth.  Store your cream in clean dry jars.  The authors note that if you see air pockets in the filled jars, stir to remove the pockets as the cream will keep better that way.  We have done two batches to date – one was very creamy and the other was more like a butter.  Who knows why they are different, but we have been happy with it either way.  I don’t believe I will go back to buying store bought lotion again.

I should add that this recipe was NOT labor intensive.  You can start the wax melting and walk away and do other things for a few minutes.  I’d say from start to finish, it took us 20 minutes and that whole time we were not standing at the stove or blender.

**I am not an affiliate for the links shown.  They are simply there to help you find resources.

This post was shared at Butter Believer’s Sunday School; The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania; The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop; Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesdays; Cooking Traditional Foods’ Traditional Tuesdays; Like a Mustard Seed’s Living Green Tuesdays; Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays; Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days Sustainable Ways; The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter; GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday; Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday; Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday; Too Many Jars in My Kitchen’s Fill Those Jars Friday; The 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of Favorites; Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl Blog Fest;

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Book Review and a Lactoferment: Daikon Radish Pickles

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I love the book “The Urban Homestead” by my favorite homesteading couple, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  Not only do they have a multitude of wonderful homesteading “how to’s”…they can talk about preparing for the zombie apocalypse with humor. 🙂

They have so many great ideas!  They give the details on starting your own mini farm, canning and food preservation, DIY alternative energy sources for your homestead (with a little help, my son just made a rainwater barrel for a Cloverbud 4H fair project), baking bread from scratch, make-your-own cleaning aides and keeping livestock in the city (which I happen to be really fond of!) and on and on…  If you are even remotely interested in being more self-sufficient and living more sustainably…this is the book for you!

I am a big fan of lactofermentation…and when I saw the following recipe, I knew I had to try them!  Before modern day canning, or the ability to freeze, people preserved their vegetable harvest through the lactofermentation process.  Lactic microbial orgamisms create an environment that is acidic and won’t allow bacteria that causes food spoilage to live.  This process also creates alot of beneficial, living, probiotic organisms in your food.  Contrary to popular belief – not all bacteria are bad. 🙂  On the GAPS Diet, we are supposed to eat a lot of fermented foods as a means to reintroduce beneficial bacteria to the gut…and one can only eat so much kraut and kimchi so it was nice to find something else for variety!

The following recipe is for one quart.  This year, I grew daikon radishes in my garden and had a TON – so I made several quarts.  Just adjust the following recipe to suit your needs:

Daikon Radish Pickles from “The Urban Homestead”

Ingredients:

**Daikon radish – enough to fill a quart jar – one big one is usually enough.  Kelly and Erik recommend that you cut them into rounds, quarters or matchsticks – however, I did spears and they did turn out ok.

**One peeled garlic clove and a few peppercorns.  The garlic odor/flavor is assertive, so skip the garlic if you’re not a fan.

**Two tablespoons (or more) of sea salt or any salt that is not iodized.  Iodized salt will kill lactobacillus bacteria and interfere with the fermentation process.

**One quart of water.  Bottled or filtered is best, but the authors have used tap successfully.

Fill a sterilized quart-sized canning jar with your sliced daikon, and a clove of garlic if you like, and a few peppercorns.  Mix your salt and water together in a separate container and pour it into the jar over the daikon slices, leaving a little breathing space at the top, about a quarter of an inch.  Make sure to pack the radishes tightly, and also that the radishes remain submerged as this is an important key to avoiding spoilage.

Close the jar tight, and put it in a cool, dark cabinet.  The flavor changes over time, so try opening different jars at different times to see what stage of fermentation you prefer.  The earliest you should try would be three or four days after bottling, the authors usually wait a week or so.  **On a personal note, I left them for a week and when I do them again, I think I’ll try them around four days.  I had one jar that looked kind of funky and I threw it out, but the rest were good.  It was also really hot out, and warm in my house, when I did these and I think that makes a difference.

When you open it there might be some fizzing, which is normal.  My garlic also turned blue, which I also understand to be normal and okay.  The pickles should be crunchy (but not raw, definitely transformed) and pleasantly garlic-flavored.  If they are a little too salty for your taste, you can rinse off the brine before you eat them.  Keep the opened or unopened jars in the fridge to extend the life of your pickles.

**Food safety note.  I know there is alot of controversy over whether to use mason jars or not in lactofermentation.  While a Harsch crock (or other pickling system) is on my Christmas list – I don’t have one now.  If they are:  mushy, funky smelling, moldy or anything else that looks like you shouldn’t eat it…don’t.  The one jar I threw out had turned yellowish…and while it may have been fine, I didn’t want to take the chance.  And if you are uncomfortable with the whole lactofermentation process…you can always go through the canning process but know that the living, beneficial organisms will be killed off.  The Ball Blue Book is a good resource for that type of canning.

Enjoy!

This post was shared at the Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania; The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival; The Better Mom’s Mondays Link Up; The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop; Living with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease Made from Scratch Monday; Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesdays; Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly  Indulgent Tuesdays; Cooking Traditional Foods’ Traditional Tuesdays; Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays; Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; The Tasty Alternative’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter; GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday; Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday; The Liberated Kitchen GAPS Friendly Fridays; The 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of Favorites; Too Many Jars in My Kitchen’s Fill Those Jars Friday; Butter Believer’s Sunday School Blog Carnival.

Cookbook Review and a DIY Project: Homemade Vanilla Extract

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If you are on the GAPS Diet…or contemplating the GAPS Diet…you really want to get the “Internal Bliss” cookbook.  Even if you’re not on GAPS, all the recipes are “real food” based and can be appreciated by anyone.  Some of the recipes include:  Guacamole (my favorite), Ranch Dip (equally awesome), Barbecue Sauce (on the stove right now), a Carrot Soup recipe that is “curried” and to die for, and a kick-butt recipe for Asian-Style Coleslaw.   I don’t remember how many recipes are included in this but it is a wide range of nut and seed prep, condiments and sauces, soups (of course), salads, desserts, ferments, breads and so on.  Best $14.95 I’ve ever spent.  Ok, well maybe that’s an exaggeration but it’s close. 🙂

And one of my favorites is a “how to” recipe for making your own vanilla extract!  And here is all you need:

This is a pic of the finished product, but you get the jist.  All you need is what you see, and about five minutes of your time.  Planning ahead is good though, because it will take you awhile to get the finished product.

Homemade Vanilla Extract (from the “Internal Bliss” cookbook)

1 oz (approximately 6) vanilla beans (I got mine here)

One standard bottle of vodka (plain old Smirnoff from the muni liquor store)

Split your vanilla beans in half lengthwise.  Pour out a few ounces of vodka – not much – to make room for the vanilla beans.  Place the split vanilla beans in the bottle with the vodka and secure the lid.  Store in a cool, dark, place – shaking occasionally – for two or more months.  And that’s it!!!!!  Doesn’t get much easier than that!

When your vanilla extract is ready, it will have a deep caramel color and will smell delicious.  And yes, it is delicious in baked goods, etc.!

You might ask…”Why the heck would you want to make your own vanilla?  Can’t you just buy it at the store?”   Well…..first of all, most store bought vanilla has all kinds of obnoxious petroleum (yeah, you read that right) based ingredients.  If you see things like “propylene glycol, caramel color, and sodium benzoate”…RUN!  Sodium benzoate is one of the fastest burning rocket fuels and is also an ingredient in fireworks.  Sounds yummy, huh?  I don’t eat oil, or rocket fuel.  I did at one point in my life but I refuse to now.

Second…sometimes it just feels really really cool to make your own things that you just took for granted that you had to buy – good sense of accomplishment.  The kids like to be part of these little “experiments” too.

Third…we have been gluten free for over a year now, and frankly – I’m sick to death of paying $9.99 or more for a teeny tiny bottle of vanilla that will last me two weeks if I’m lucky.  I figure that I paid around $20 for a gynormous amount of vanilla by the time it was all said and done.  Kind of a “cost no-brainer”!!!

Enjoy!

This post was shared at The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania; The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival; The Better Mom’s Mondays Link Up; The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop; Living with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease Made from Scratch Monday; Real Food  Forager’s Fat Tuesdays; Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays; Like a Mustard Seed’s Living Green Tuesdays; Cooking Traditional Foods Traditional Tuesdays; The Tasty Alternative’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; Whole New Mom’s Allergy Free Wednesday’s; Laura’s Gluten Free Pantry’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays; Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday; The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter; Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday; The Liberated Kitchen’s GAPS Friendly Fridays; The 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of Favorites; Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites; Too  Many Jars in My Kitchen’s Fill Those Jars Friday;