Saturday, July 26, 2014

Homemade Bread

After nearly 20 failed loaves, I finally came up with the PERFECT bread recipe to replace store-bought bread. It is spongey, light, and flexible. It is easy to slice thin, it freezes well, costs only 68 cents a loaf, and best of all, it is DELICIOUS! A huge added bonus is that it is only 65 calories a slice when cut into 16 slices (entire loaf contains 1040 calories, 10 grams fiber, 35 grams protein).

I like to make multiple loaves at a time. Be sure to let it cool completely before slicing and use a good bread knife to do so.

  • 100 grams water
  • 40 grams 6-grain dry oatmeal
  • 7 grams (1/2 tbsp) butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 grams warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 2 tsp rapid rise yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 200 grams + 40 grams bread flour
  • cooking spray (oil in an oil mister bottle)

In a microwave safe bowl, combine 100 grams water, oatmeal, butter, and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine 100 grams warm water, yeast, and sugar. Whisk together and allow to sit until frothy (about 10 minutes). Stir in cooled oatmeal mixture and 200 grams bread flour. 

In a small bowl, measure out 40 grams bread flour. Dump that flour on a clean work space and place dough on top. Knead dough for 15 minutes, spraying with a little cooking spray if it becomes sticky. Return dough to mixing bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Use cooking spray to grease a small area of your work surface. Transfer dough to that area and knead for an additional 3 minutes. Form into a loaf-shape and place into a greased 9" loaf pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. 

After 35 minutes, start preheating oven to 400. Once dough has risen 1-2 inches above the top of the pan, put it in the oven immediately and bake for 25 minutes. It is VERY important not to let it over-rise and to get it in the hot oven the moment it's ready! Failure to do this will result in a loaf that collapses mid-baking.

Allow to cool completely before slicing (at least 4 hours). Sliced bread freezes beautifully in an old bread bag! Store fresh bread in an air-tight container or bag. 

For hamburger buns, after kneading the dough a second time, tear dough into 8 balls, each weighing 65 grams. Place buns on a cookie sheet and let rise for 30 minutes before preheating the oven to 400. Bake for 20 minutes. Each hamburger bun contains 130 calories.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homemade Oat Milk

This milk is not only cheap to make but it is also incredibly easy. It took me under 3 minutes to make a batch including clean up. Be sure to purchase your oats from the bulk section of your grocery store so you aren't purchasing unnecessary packaging that'll just end up in the garbage. Give yourself bonus points if you use a reusable bag intended for bulk foods (I made mine out of lightweight ripstop nylon).

Now, onto the cost breakdown. Steel-cut oats are 99 cents a pound in the bulk section of my favorite store, making this dairy-free, plant-based, milk alternative come in at 29 cents a quart (although I recently saw steel cut oats on sale for 69 cents a pound, making a quart of milk a mere 20 cents)! Even if you use a pricier variety of dry oatmeal such as 6-grain oats ($1.49 per pound), it still figures out to be only 43 cents per quart! A HUGE difference considering I used to pay $2 per quart for my favorite plant milk (almond milk to be specific) and the brand Pacific's variety of oat milk comes in at $3.49 per quart!

  • 133 grams steel cut oats (or 6-grain oats from Sprouts' bulk section)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • nut bag, cheesecloth, or fine strainer
  • optional: honey, maple syrup, or cocoa powder
In a blender, blend oats with one cup of water until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend once more. Strain milk using a nut bag, fine sieve, or cheesecloth. Leftover pulp can be used in cookie and bread recipes, dehydrated then ground into oat flour, or froze for future use. Flavor the milk any way you'd like (or not at all) and store in an air tight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lotion Bar

These lotion bars are absolutely amazing and one of my favorite things to make. The shea butter and coconut oil moisturizes while the beeswax protects the skin and seals in the moisture. They work so well that you'll be able to moisturize less often even if you typically have dry skin. If you don't have a food scale, just measure out equal amounts of each ingredient, such as a quarter cup.
  • 20 grams beeswax pellets
  • 25 grams shea butter
  • 25 grams coconut oil
Melt together in a small saucepan over low heat then pour into mould of your choice (cupcake pan, dixie cups, silicone muffin liners... etc)

Homemade Sunscreen

With more people becoming health-conscious, natural options of just about everything seem to be increasing in popularity. The downside to this is that these healthier alternatives tend to cost up to ten times as much as their chemical-ridden relatives. For example, the popular Badger brand of sunscreen costs $15 for a small tube containing less than 3 ounces of sunscreen. That's a whopping $5 per ounce! This expensive sunscreen contains all the same ingredients as my homemade version (beeswax, natural oils, and zinc oxide) and for the cost of about 3 tubes, you can purchase all the ingredients and make it yourself for a measily 66 cents per ounce.

A single batch ends up costing $3.62, makes about 5 1/2 ounces, and takes about 5 minutes to make. You should be able to find shea butter and coconut oil at a natural health store. Beeswax pellets can sometimes be hard to find so you're probably better off ordering that along with the zinc oxide powder from an online store such as Amazon.

Here's a breakdown of the costs of ingredients. Please keep in mind that while prices can vary quite dramatically, you shouldn't have any issue finding the ingredients at the following price points.

beeswax: $12 per pound (37 cents per batch)
shea butter: $10 per 16 oz ($1.25 per batch)
coconut oil: $10 per 16 oz ($1.25 per batch)
zinc oxide powder: $12 per pound (75 cents per batch)

This sunscreen is waterproof, protects against the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of 30 (SPF can be increased by adding more zinc oxide). It is natural, safe, and a great choice for kids and adults alike. Like all sunscreens, it should be reapplied every hour, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • 1/2 oz (1/8 cup) beeswax pellets
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) shea butter
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 1 oz (2 tablespoons) zinc oxide powder
In a small saucepan, melt beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil over low heat. Pour liquid into a bowl along with the zinc oxide and whisk until combined and lump-free. Pour into a small, wide-mouthed jar and allow to cool until using.

rubs in easily!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Homemade Eyeshadow Primer

Eyeshadow primer not only makes your eyeshadow 'stick' more and crease less, but it also allows you to use less eyeshadow as it turns your eyelid into a nice even surface.

This recipe requires three ingredients: moisturizer/lotion of your choice, liquid foundation, and arrowroot powder

In a small bowl, combine equal parts moisturizer and liquid foundation. Stir in arrowroot powder 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you reach a frosting-like consistency. Place finished makeup in a small jar. Apply with either your finger or a small foundation brush. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Homemade Shine-Free Powdered Foundation

One of my must haves is loose powder (thanks to the great state of Texas, without it I'd look like a complete grease ball). So needless to say, I love what it does for my skin but I definitely don't love the price. For six dollars, I get 0.7 ounces of product. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the majority of my money is going towards marketing and not the actual product. Recently I came across a recipe to make my own loose powdered makeup. The recipe was lengthy and included several exotic ingredients (most of which were used in such small quantities that I honestly didn't see the point). I spent the next several minutes skimming the comments section and found out that many people simply used the three main ingredients and didn't bother with the rest. They reported good results and the main ingredients were familiar to me so I decided to go ahead and try it. Let me just say this: the resulting product is AMAZING. It is light and provides nice shine-free coverage just like my beloved Maybelline loose face powder. Oh, and let's not forget it costs a fraction of the price. For $10 worth of ingredients, I'm going to be able to make at least 40 batches of this stuff (each batch being enough to refill my old Maybelline container).

Like I said, all you need are three ingredients. Arrowroot powder, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. I recommend you splurge for the good cocoa powder and all natural arrowroot as this stuff is going on your face. If you aren't familiar with arrowroot powder, just know that it is similar to cornstarch except that it is gluten free. You can find it in the baking goods aisle along side other flours. It is available at all health food stores. 

In a bowl, combine the three ingredients until you get your desired shade. Arrowroot powder is going to be the base, so start with that and very slowly add in tiny amounts of the cinnamon and cocoa powder. I can't tell you how much because your skin color isn't the same as mine. Just know that the cocoa powder will darken the makeup but leave it a slight grey tone while the cinnamon will darken the makeup while adding in warm tones. Keep some of your existing loose powder makeup nearby to compare colors. Once you've found your shade, transfer into an old makeup container or any container that's short and wide and enjoy your awesome cheap makeup that smells absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reel Mower: The ONLY green way to mow your lawn

Did you know that running a gas powered lawn mower for one hour creates approximately the same amount of pollution as ELEVEN cars being driven for one hour? Did you know that the EPA estimates that 17 million gallons of fuel is spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment? That's more than Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989! An electric mower might seem like a better option since it doesn't directly contribute to pollution like a gas mower, but it does require electricity which may or may not be generated from renewable resources. The best option when it comes to mowing your lawn is to use a manual (push) reel mower.

Reel mowers are very inexpensive, with most reel mowers costing around $100. They're also easy to maintain, only requiring the occasional greasing. If the blades become dull, a sharpening kit can be purchased for $15. We've had our reel mower for 3 years and have yet to sharpen the blades.

Besides being cheap to buy and maintain, reel mowers are also safer than powered mowers (75,000 people go to the ER every year for lawn mower related injuries) since powered mowers have a tendency to turn rocks into projectiles. They're also quieter, allowing you to mow your lawn any time you'd like. Finally, real mowers are better for the health of your grass. The blades of powered mowers, whether gas or electric, cut by chopping and shredding. This leaves the grass more vulnerable to moisture-loss. A reel mower snips the grass much like a pair of scissors. This cleaner cut keeps your lawn healthy and looking neat.

The only downside of reel mowers is that they are slightly more difficult to push than powered mowers. If your yard is larger than a half acre, a reel mower may not be for you (however, if you have more than a half acre, I'd recommend xeriscaping the majority of your yard since lawns are wasteful in the first place). 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soap Nuts - Natural Laundry Soap

Laundry in our household has just gotten cheaper and greener as we have made the switch to soap nuts.

So what exactly are soap nuts? Soap nuts are the dried shells of soapberries. The shells contain a substance called saponin, which creates a soaping effect. It has been used for centuries across the globe for cleaning laundry, for personal hygiene, and for several other cleaning purposes. They are hypoallergenic and naturally fragrance free.

For laundry, measure out 1/2 ounce of soap nuts (4-5 shells), place into a drawstring bag and tie it securely. Toss the bag into your washing machine prior to adding in clothing then wash using warm or hot water. Once the washer has completed all cycles, remove the drawstring bag containing the soap nuts (don't leave it in your washer). Air drying the soap nuts is not necessary if you have another load of laundry to do. If you wash with cold water (which I usually do unless I'm washing kitchen rags or cloth diapers), simply soak the drawstring bag containing the soap nuts in a cup of hot water for 3 minutes, creating "soap nut tea". Remove the bag and pour tea into your washing machine. Again, allow the drawstring bag containing the soap nuts to air dry.

Soap nuts can be reused 4-7 times. They are no longer effective when they turn light tan or grey or when they become thin and/or mushy. Spent soap nuts can be composted!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stain Remover

I have a toddler and a white microfiber couch so you can only imagine what I have to deal with on a daily basis. My couch has seen everything including chocolate, crayon, pen ink, and tomato soup to something I could only WISH was chocolate (gag). So, what's my secret to keeping my couch looking new and stain free? Why, a bottle of rubbing alcohol of course! After cleaning up the bulk of the mess and blotting up as much liquid as possible, I squirt the area with rubbing alcohol then scrub with a clean and dry white cloth. It really is just that easy.

Preserving Food - Pressure Canning

According to studies, the average American throw away 40% of the food they buy! Obviously this is a huge source of waste. By properly preserving your food with a pressure canner, you can not only save money and create less waste, but also create "convenience" foods out of items that would otherwise take hours to cook.

My favorite thing to can is beans. I love it because it cooks and preserves the beans in just a few easy steps. No overnight soaking is required and in just a couple hours, you can have plenty of beans for weeks to come, ready when they're needed. The directions below are for processing beans. If you want to pressure can something else, please refer to your owners manual for the pounds pressure and processing time.

1. Set 3 quarts of water to boil. 

2. Take all your clean jars and lids and place them in your dishwasher for a quick, hot rinse. This will prepare the jars for canning. Usually a full rinse cycle isn't required and the jars will be plenty hot after 5 minutes.

3. Remove the jars and lids from the dishwasher then measure the dry beans into the hot jars. If you have a food scale, measuring the beans is very easy and makes for perfectly uniform jars. Simply set the jars one at a time on the scale, zero it out, then add the following grams of dried beans per pint sized jar (double the amount if you're using quart sized jars):
  • black beans: 114 grams
  • garbanzo beans/chickpeas: 135 grams
  • great northern beans: 105 grams
  • pinto beans: 108 grams
If you don't have a food scale, simply measure out 3/4th cup of dried beans per pint sized jar (1 1/2 cups per quart sized jar). Now would also be the time to add any spices if you're wanting to flavor the beans. Simply add whatever you'd like to the jars right on top of the beans. You can add chopped onion, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and/or pepper just to give you some ideas. 

4. Next, you'll need to add water to eat jar, leaving about an inch of headspace. Place the lids on the jars then screw the rings on tight. Place the jars upright on the rack inside the pressure canner. 

5. Carefully pour the 3 quarts of boiling water into the pressure canner

6. Place the pressure canner over a burner, turn the heat on high and securely attach the lid, leaving the pressure regulator off or open (depending on your model).

7. Once the steam releasing from the valve pipe has been steady for ten minutes, close the pressure regulator (place it over the valve pipe). Allow it to build up to 11 pounds pressure then reduce the heat to maintain the pressure.

8. Process your jars for 75 minutes for pint sized jars or 90 minutes for quart sized jars. Check on the pressure often to make sure it hasn't risen or dropped.

9. Once the processing time has passed, turn off the heat and carefully move the pressure canner off of the burner. DO NOT OPEN THE CANNER. First, allow the pressure to drop completely. Once that has happened, open/remove the release valve and allow steam to escape. Only then is it safe to remove the lid. Remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool at room temperature.

10. Once completely cooled, check the seals by pushing on the center of each lid. If any of them give, they haven't sealed properly and you'll have to store them in your fridge and use them within the next few days. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dry place such as your pantry or cupboard.

Dry pinto beans, a tablespoon of homemade taco seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and a clove of minced garlic

Just before securing the lid o the pressure canner. Jars are closed and surrounded by hot water. 

Finished product: REFRIED BEANS!! To use, simply heat and mash with a fork.