Friday, September 6, 2013

Soap making

I have ventured into the soap making niche of the world! It's the last thing I thought I'd do after a somewhat failed attempt to "make" my own soap powder (with borax and a bar soap) a few years ago.

It's actually something I can use. And that's nothing to sneeze at...really, it doesn't make me sneeze...unlike the powder soap experiment. Trying to locate a cheaper way to do laundry and using something more "green" led me to find a totally new concept. One that many others have also found useful.

Let me introduce you to the soap nut. I'm not talking about myself either...(I know it's been awhile since I posted and you were starting to wonder, right?) =) No, really the soap nut is a fruit (soap berry) that is dried and has been used for many years for just about anything that needs cleaning. I've used it for about 4 months now.

I make it into a liquid form which I make myself from the dried soap nuts. I add a few drops of lavender oil for a nice scent. You can use just about any essential oil you prefer. I found it to be very useful and mostly I've used it for laundry.

In a normal load, I only need to use about 1/4 cup. One batch lasts about a month for us if used for laundry alone. It does not have many suds, if at all, so keep this in mind when you try it the first time. Here's a list of the benefits of soap nuts at the Soap Nuts Pro website.

It naturally works as a fabric softener, so I actually use another soap for my towels, washcloths and cloth napkins, because I want them to be absorbent. It's great for clothes though. For someone who hates the chemical smell of fabric softeners, I'm happy to report that the soap nuts has no such irritation.

I bought mine locally here in bulk. I use the ratio in the recipe on this website: (scroll down in the box to find it). They have a good website to learn more about soap nuts. You can do an internet search and find similar recipes and sources to buy from.

I always crush the soap nuts up in a bag (I use my potato masher and a cutting board underneath the bag), before adding them to the water when heating them on the stove. And after simmering, I strain through a nut milk bag and squeeze out all I can. Then I compost the pulp! I let the soap cool, then I refrigerate it to keep longer than a few days. I find that it keeps fine for about one month this way. When I start to use it for more than laundry (for our family of four), then I will make it more often.
Here are some photos of when I make it at home:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I'll try to answer the best I can. Happy cleaning! =)

Update to add: I have now been using the EcoWasher in combination with my clothes washer for a while now - maybe a year or more? We have really liked it and therefore I am not using any added soap. I do however still use some spot cleaner and presoak things that need a little more help to get clean. Love this option and makes it a breeze to have children help too! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Black Bean Soup

This recipe was given to me by a friend. We've enjoyed it on a few occasions and it's worth mentioning. It's an easy, basic recipe. Enjoy.

Black Bean Soup

Saute together in bottom of soup pot:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped 
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (I used light green/yellow)

Stir in with vegetables:
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch red pepper or chipotle powder

Add in:
4 cups vegetable broth
3 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1-2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half (or use other tomatoes, diced)
seasoning to taste

Bring to boil. Take off heat and let sit for a few minutes. At this point, you may puree part of the soup in a blender, or opt to leave as is, for a broth type soup (the soup pictured above is not pureed). Serve.

Optional toppings to serve with soup:
fresh tomatoes, diced
cooked (and cooled) brown rice
fresh chopped cilantro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Marinated Tofu

This is an old recipe I've had around for awhile. Someone recently asked me about it and I realized I'd never posted it here. You will need to use water packed tofu for this, as silken does not work well in this kind of recipe. Silken tofu works better in sauces and blended recipes.

For those of you who have been longtime readers of this blog, you will remember my "Making Tofu in an African Village" blog post.* This is the kind of tofu that is used in this recipe. You will find it in your grocery store packed in water in rectangular tubs. Simply drain and rinse, then slice or cube for this recipe.

This dish can be made as a marinade, in the sense that you prepare your tofu ahead of time and soak it in the marinade ingredients, then cook later. Or it can be done quickly right in the pan. Either way, the trick is to watch your pan closely toward the end of cooking so as not to burn it, as you carefully reduce the liquid until it is evaporated, but still leaves all the flavor and seasoning in the tofu.

Another way to possibly improve the flavor, would be to try another method. You could marinate the tofu, after freezing overnight and thawing the tofu separately. This method tends to get good results, as the tofu can further soak up the marinade this way. This applies to other dishes as well. Tofu will be more chewy and "meaty" this way.

Marinated Tofu

1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari, or nama shoyu or liquid aminos)
1/2 cup water (or more to cover to marinate)
1 clove garlic, minced (or about 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic, or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)

1 pound water-packed tofu, extra firm & non-gmo preferred, sliced or cubed
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

Combine marinade ingredients (all except the tofu). Marinate tofu for a few hours or more. Or you can simply put the ingredients directly in a large skillet on the stove top and cook on a simmer, until all the liquid has evaporated, watching closely so as not to burn. Or you can broil the tofu in the oven, flipping over part way into cooking, until "golden."

I tend to make this recipe minus the optional mushrooms, and on the stove top the quick way. My preferred cut is to slice them a bit on the thick side, so they'll stay together better. I use a metal spatula to turn them if needed. Serve on a sandwich (can use instead of tempeh on Reuben sandwiches), over brown rice, chopped into a stir fry, or in spring rolls, sushi, etc. The ideas are limitless! Yummy by itself as a "steak" along with the rest of your meal. Our children love this. =)

Optional: A great idea is to saute up some sliced onions in a bit of oil (I use a little coconut oil) before or after cooking the tofu in the same skillet. No need to rinse the pan between.

*- I just realized I've been writing this blog for more than 5 years. How cool is that? And yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! Here's to another 20 years, Honey!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ivy's Colon Cleanse

This colon cleanse recipe comes from a woman named Ivy Bridge. We've been using this for many years, so it's definitely a tried and true recipe, although not for food, rather to clean out the colon. Please read thoroughly and gather your ingredients/supplements all ahead of time. Give yourself a week or two to find what you need, if you are not used to keeping these things at your house (see note below). I offer this as information that has proved helpful in my experience.

Ivy's Colon Cleanse

1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice (organic, or freshly juiced organic apples)
1/2 cup purified water
2 Tablespoons liquid chlorophyll*
2 Tablespoons aloe vera juice* (best is whole leaf*)
1 heaping teaspoon psyllium hulls*
2 teaspoons hydrated bentonite clay* (optional, not in original recipe)

My recipe says to blend the above ingredients in a blender. I have stirred them together in a glass without trouble. After they are mixed, drink immediately (or you will have an extra thick gel). Drink another glass of water immediately after, with 2 cascara sagrada capsules*. Take first thing in the morning. My recipe then says to continue for at least two months (first thing each morning), then use as desired. Drink plenty of water during the day.

* - these ingredients are available from Nature's Sunshine Products. Please check out their website, if you don't know how/where to buy their products. They are a reputable company and have been in business since 1972.

As an added tip, I have found that adding digestive enzymes when I'm eating meals helps greatly with digestion. Taking probiotics are also very helpful to restore your gut's heath (and very good to use when/if you've ever taken antibiotics). Nature's Sunshine also has these items.

Please note my disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor. This page is for education only, and is NOT intended to be medical advice. Always talk with your health practitioner before taking any herbs or supplements.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How we do raw...

A little over a year ago, Shannon, had emailed this question to me. Following is her question and my reply that I sent her at the time. It still conveys how I feel about raw foods today. Thanks, Shannon, for the question.
"Hi, Loretta, I'm curious re: raw food. I understand the raw fruits and vegetables but how do you have a complete meal with raw food and be full? Do you include whole wheat bread as well? What kinds of meals would you have w/ raw food?"

I know when I first heard about raw food, that's exactly what I thought. I took me awhile to get up the courage to try anything raw that I normally would cook. So I started with things I already made and just made sure they were "more" raw. For example, my green smoothies in the morning. I would make sure I was only using fresh or frozen (uncooked) fruits, no cooked non-dairy milks (I actually make them with water now), and fresh greens. So smoothies are really easy.

Then I tried some raw soups. An easy one was gazpacho. It's already supposed to be cold and I love salsa, so I figured I couldn't go wrong there. Then I tried another cold soup. In my vitamix, I can "heat' soups, still under temp to keep the live enzymes. Anyway, it worked! I enjoy other raw foods that I never thought I would like.

Yes, you can get full on raw foods. Besides raw fruits and vegetables, some things people use: cold pressed oils (olive oil, etc.), herbs and spices (non-irradiated only) and there's also raw nuts and seeds and the nut butters made from them (think walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc.). Then besides this, raw foods also includes "breads and crackers" made from ground flax seeds, vegetables and other seasonings and sometimes sweeteners. A food dehydrator helps this to be possible. Many people, trying to do more raw, may find a food dehydrator to be a wise investment eventually.

There is no lack of good fats when doing more raw, to help with satiety. Besides the usual cold pressed oils (I use olive oil and coconut oil), there are nuts/seeds and also avocados. These are what we use to help make dairy substitutions as well. Cashews or sunflower seeds become nice and creamy in a blender with other ingredients for sauces.

If someone desires not to go vegan, but still be vegetarian and raw, there are still raw dairy options (non-pasteurized) usually locally that one can find. I do not advise eating eggs or meat in its raw form.

If you want to do more raw, you may still have whole wheat bread if you like (preferably home baked). We don't do 100% raw, so there are still some things I cook. We eat beans almost everyday in salads or soups or whatever dish I'm making. We are staying away from wheat/gluten at present to see if it will help us and our son specifically. I recently decided to lose a little extra weight and I think this actually helped me a lot. It's amazing how many foods have wheat, in some form, in the ingredients. And these are usually very processed.

A raw food meal. It could be as easy as a green smoothie (greens and fruit) and fresh fruit for breakfast (I usually have 2 cups, my husband has about 1 quart and our children also have some). Salads for dinner, including the dressing. Some people make their own sauerkraut and pickles (not canned ones) and that is another thing I am trying at home. There are other raw menus that you can make like soups and other things like pizza and pasta too. You just use other ingredients to emulate the crust and noodles. I have a special cutter that makes "noodles" out of vegetables (think about the county fair and how they make the spiral potato fries). I just use zucchini or other vegetable (I'm aiming to try sweet potato with it soon). Juicing vegetables are also an option that if done yourself is very good for you.

Fresh vegetables and nuts can be eaten for snacking. When we go out to eat, we often go to salad bars and load up on veggies and fresh fruit (if they have fresh fruit), and since we aren't 100% raw, some beans and olives. It's not raw, but most of the time, we use hot sauce as our dressing when eating meals out. I don't like the oil and vinegar options at most places and other pre-made dressings are non-vegan (like ranch and blue cheese) or are too sweet (think corn syrup) and preservative laden for me.

I have made raw "breads" and our family likes them. I even made a corn "tortilla" by using flax seeds and some frozen corn (I know that the corn this way, is not technically raw, but I use it right out of the bag and proceed without heating it further). I can't wait for fresh corn next summer though! =) Crackers are not hard to make if you have a dehydrator. Sweets are easy. Using our food processor we make truffles and raw cookies with nuts and dried fruit (think larabar type). Sometimes a date, with an almond tucked in, hits the spot for a sweet craving. Ice cream cravings are almost non-existent because we have creamy smoothies every morning.

I know that raw foods may seem limiting, but there are so many options, that I haven't even explored them all yet. We just aim to fully incorporate raw foods into our diet more than we have before. It's a good step and our children (ages 13 and 5), don't mind the ride at all. My 13 year old son is our most enthusiastic gardener! =)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Liquid Measure Equivalents

Fluid Ounces
1 c
8 oz
16 Tbsp
48 tsp
237 ml
3/4 c
6 oz
12 Tbsp
36 tsp
177 ml
2/3 c
5 1/3 oz
10 Tbsp + 2 tsp
32 tsp
158 ml
1/2 c
4 oz
8 Tbsp
24 tsp
118 ml
1/3 c
2 2/3 oz
5 Tbsp + 1 tsp
16 tsp
79 ml
1/4 c
2 oz
4 Tbsp
12 tsp
59 ml
1/8 c
1 oz
2 Tbsp
6 tsp
30 ml
1/16 c
1/2 oz
1 Tbsp
3 tsp
15 ml

Post this inside your cupboard door. It will come in handy sometime.

You're welcome. (Smile)...