Archive | January 2012

Cake Pan Coating


When I posted my recipe for English Muffin Breadย I mentioned the pan coating I used. I used to buy PAM Baking Spray made with flour because it was so much cleaner and easier then greasing a pan and then coating it with flour. Well when you like to bake the cost of that can add up pretty quick! The recipe that I am about to share with you is MUCH cheaper, and works even better ๐Ÿ™‚ I have not had anything stick to a pan since using this, and its a breeze to whip up. I bet you already have everything you need.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

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All you have to do is whip these ingredients together with a whisk! I don’t think it could possibly be any easier lol. It may take a minute or two for all the lumps to smooth out, but hey you can burn a few extra calories in the process. This is what it will look like:

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Now if you don’t have shortening you can use lard, and if you don’t have canola oil you can use vegetable, olive, etc. I also don’t see why you couldn’t use whole wheat flour. You can also make bigger batches if you would like, but this usually lasts me a couple of months (depending how much bread I have been making).

Simply store your mixture in an airtight container at room temperature. I like to store mine in an old almond container. It has a lip around the top edge that is great for getting off the excess without making a mess. Just brush a thin layer of this onto your pans before baking, you will be amazed!ย If you haven’t used it in a while it may start to separate but don’t worry, just give it a quick stir and you are good to go. Happy baking!

โค Ashley

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Homemade Shampoo


I have tried so many recipes for homemade shampoo. I am going to share a little bit of my experiences with you, then let you in on my shampoo recipe. This is probably going to be a pretty long post, but please bear with me… you will learn a lot I promise ๐Ÿ™‚ After reading about the chemicals in store-bought shampoo I was determined to find an alternative.

When I first started researching going “poo free” as they call it. I heard about using baking soda and vinegar. I wasn’t quite ready to make that dramatic of a switch, so I started off withย Crunchy Betty’s “Sorta Poo”ย ย (I love her blog btw!) Now I absolutely LOVED how this stuff made my hair look and smell. It was heavenly! It is made with castile soap and coconut milk. There were 2 downsides though…. One my hair felt like it had a little bit of a residue but that could have been from the coconut milk I was using. Two you have to make a new batch each time you shower, or store it in the fridge. A few times I forgot to make it, or didn’t have time so I had to reach for the store-bought shampoo as back up. So I decided to make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge. A few times I jumped in the shower only to remember my shampoo was in the fridge, not fun. It also is REALLY cold when you do it that way, my 4-year-old was not a fan of really cold shampoo lol. So I decided that it just wasn’t working for me. But if you have castile soap you should really try this at least once, your hair will look amazing! If you do try it, I would not recommend using peppermint castile soap, unless you like a really strong tingly feeling.

So after sadly giving up my “sorta poo” I decided I was ready to try “no poo”. This is by far the best information I found on “no poo”. I loved how cheap and easy this was, and you don’t have to store it in the fridge. You wash your hair with baking soda, and use an apple cider vinegar afterwards to soften your hair. It was fantastic for my daughter’s hair, and for my roots. The problem with this for me was… my hair has been processed so many times. There is no pretty way to put it, its fried! lol. So unfortunately this just did not work for me either. My ends needed a little more lovin! I am in the process of growing my natural hair out now, so maybe I can go back to this one day ๐Ÿ™‚ I have also seen people complain about their hair not smelling yummy like with regular shampoo and conditioner, which is true. But to fix that all you have to do is spray your favorite body spray on your brush when you brush your hair, problem solved!

So after experimenting a little bit I finally came up with my own homemade shampoo recipe. I am extremely excited to share it, because well it’s just awesome! lol. It leaves you hair clean, smelling good and really shiny. Best of all NO chemicals! ย ๐Ÿ™‚ It also does lather a little bit unlike the “no poo” method. I read that chamomile tea was a natural way to gradually lighten your hair (if it is naturally fair to begin with) I am not sure if this is true but it got my mind going. So I thought… I will take the castile soap from the “sorta poo” and the baking soda from the “no poo”, use tea instead of water and add in some essential oils. But then it got even better! I had bought some xanthan gum for a conditioner recipe I tried out so I added that as well. I was amazed with the results and I am happy to share. So you will need:

  • 1 gallon of brewed tea or water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup castile soap
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • essential oils (about 30 drops-optional)

For the shampoo I made this time I used regular tea, almond castile soap (I absolutely love Dr. Bronners), and tea tree oil. If you have never heard of xanthan gum don’t worry, I found it right at Wal-Mart in the baking aisle. If you can’t find it at any stores there is always the internet! It is a little expensive I think I paid around 12 dollars for this bag. BUT a little goes a long way, and you can use it for gluten-free baking too. You can buy castile soap at Target, Whole Foods, GNC. It is also a little pricey up front (This bottle was 4-5 dollars) but you can use it for SO many things. I use it in my all-purpose cleaner, you can use it to wash your dog, car, walls, etc. It really is amazing stuff. {Or you can make your own!! Find my recipe here ๐Ÿ™‚ }

So first, brew your tea. I put the tea bags right into the cold water, then heat the water just to where it’s steaming and you see little bubbles on the bottom. Then I take it off the heat and let the tea steep for about 5-10 mins.

Next, remove the tea bags and stir in your baking soda. It will fizz up for a minute like this:

At this point you can let it cool off some before adding in the rest of the ingredients if you would like. You will want to whisk in your xanthan gum next, a little at a time. Then stir in your castile soap and essential oil. I keep forgetting to add the xanthan gum before the castile soap, silly me. So I ended up with a foamy top on my mixture while stirring in the xanthan gum. Not a big deal except it causes little clumps and its hard to see when it’s all mixed in. It doesn’t affect the end result, its just a little bit of a pain. This is what happened to me, lol.

Here is what it will look like when its done. I had little clumps because of my oopsie, but they mostly dissolve anyways so its nothing to worry about.

After it cools completely stir in your essential oil then just pour some into an empty bottle for the shower and store the rest under the sink in an old milk or water jug. Use just like regular shampoo, and enjoy your clean, pretty smelling, shiny hair ๐Ÿ™‚ There are so many variations you could do with this as well. The first batch I made was chamomile tea, with lavender castile soap and lavender essential oil. You could also do green tea, with citrus castile soap and lemon essential oil, or coffee with almond, etc.

I am still trying to find a conditioner recipe that I am happy with, so for now I am using a sulfate and paraben free kind called “Simply U Conditioner” (Color Shine formula) along with this shampoo.

Please please please try this and let me know what you think! I hope you will love it as much as we do.

โค Ashley

(Please check out Homemade Shampoo Part Two for answers to some frequently asked questions and a recipe for a slightly thicker formula)

Homemade Chocolates


These are so simple to make, with only 3 ingredients. They are absolutely amazing and addicting…. and even…. healthy?! They are like a cross between a chocolate bar and fudge. Made with organic extra virgin coconut oil (which can be found in the vitamin section in Walmart), honey (local/raw is best) and unsweetened cocoa powder (raw organic is best but regular is fine too). I made these today to try the recipe and I didn’t even plan on blogging about it, but now I must!!! I really want to give credit to the creator of this recipe, but I cannot remember what site I found these on, so sorry! I had the recipe written down on a piece of paper. If I ever find it again I will post a link immediately! I doubled this recipe and ended up with about a sandwich bag full of chocolate. So this is what you need:

  • 4 tablespoons organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

First, melt your coconut oil. I used a glass measuring cup set inside of a pan with some water. I heated it low and slow, but I am sure you could melt it faster if you are in a hurry or have no patience, lol. Pour your melted coconut oil into a medium sized bowl, then add in the honey. Whisk together until combined. Whisk in cocoa powder, a little at a time. Keep stirring until your mixture has thickened up and no lumps remain. Pour into a flat container and stick it in the fridge or freezer until solid. You may want to spray your container with non stick spray first, I did have a bit of difficulty getting mine out. Then you just cut into small squares. So easy right?!ย This would also be perfect for silicone molds!

I sprinkled kosher salt and shredded coconut on top of my chocolate before sticking it in the freezer, and I have to say the little bit of salt makes these even more amazing! I really love sweet and salty combos. You could also stir in nuts, dried fruit, extracts, etc. There is a coconut taste to them, but even my husband who hates coconuts LOVED these chocolates. He ate several after dinner tonight lol. Don’t tell him I told you ๐Ÿ™‚ As I said in my deodorant post, coconut oil starts to melt at 76 degrees. So you may want to store these goodies in the fridge or freezer… in the back… where no one can see them but you! Seriously…. they will go quick!

Now you can have a treat and not feel so bad about it ๐Ÿ™‚ Sure coconut oil does have fat in it, but its the good kind! If you google “benefits of coconut oil” you will find lots of great info. Its also really good for your skin and can be a great treatment for damaged hair. If you get the raw organic cocoa you get the amazing benefits of that as well, bonus!

I really hope you will try these, they far exceeded my expectations and I had to share! Let me know if you plan on trying them, or if you do try them please let me know what you think!

โค Ashley

Homemade Air Freshener


This was my first time making this, and I am shocked at how simple it is. These would make an excellent gift and there are so many options as far as what fragrance you want. You get to pick how strong the scent is, and there are no nasty chemicals. You can leave it clear, or choose a color to match your decor. If you leave it clear, or don’t go overboard on food coloring (like I did) you can also add in things like decorative rocks, shells, etc. These are supposed to dry out over the course of a month or so, just like the ones from the store. You can use either fragrance oils, pure essential oils, or a combination of both. You can use small glasses/jars and can make each one a different color or scent if you would like. I opted for one, bigger air freshener by using an old Claussen pickle jar and used lavender for the scent. I really love finding recipes like this that have so many possibilities. So lets get started, you will need:

  • several small jars/glasses (or one large one)
  • 4 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • fragrance oil and/or essential oil
  • food coloring

  1. Boil 1 cup of water, whisk in gelatin until dissolved. (It is very important to whisk constantly and pour in a little at a time to avoid lumps. It helps to have your packets of gelatin opened and ready to go)
  2. Add salt, whisk until dissolved
  3. Add in other cup of cold water

Add just a couple of drops of food coloring (or not if you want it clear) to your container(s). Then your oil(s). Start with about 30 drops and add more if you think you need to. I did about 45 drops in mine. Mostly the fragrance oil, I think I did about 10 drops of essential oil. Next time I will probably add more seeing as how I did it all in one jar instead of say 3 smaller jars. Then pour your gelatin mixture into the container(s) and stir with something disposable like a popsicle stick. Then just let it sit overnight, It will gel up and turn more clear. As you can see in the picture above mine looked somewhat cloudy at first. I will take a picture tomorrow after it gels completely and add that as well. So far it is setting up nicely and smells fantastic ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy!

โค Ashley

 

(Edit~ Added on 01/16/2012)

My air freshener is set up and smells lovely. Here is what it looks like:

It is still really dark. I know I used wayyyy too much food coloring, hehe. I set the jar on its side to show how thick the gel is, it doesn’t budge!

 

Regrowing Green Onions


I used to hate buying green onions from the store, you use a tiny amount and then the rest go bad… what a waste! Now, after using the green part I just put the remaining white part and the roots into some water. They will grow right back up, over and over again! The ones you see laying on the table in front of the jar were pieces I had to cut off this morning because they were so tall they were flopping over. This is my second batch of green onions in a few months. I made a mistake with the first batch by giving them too much water. What happened is that the white parts at the bottom were too soggy and turned moldy. It was not pretty, lesson learned! You want the water to cover just the roots. I would not fill it any higher than this:

All you have to do is change the water daily, I also like to rinse out the jar and roots too. They grow back very quickly. The last batch I had lasted me about a month or so before it went downhill (which was my own fault). I have had these for a few weeks now and they are still growing and looking great! I have also heard that you can replant these in some dirt or in your garden. My guess is they would last even longer that way but I have not tried it yet. I just keep my jar in the kitchen window. It is great having fresh green onions anytime you want them. It can also save you a bit of money if you use green onion frequently, especially if you buy the organic kind. If you have any other tips on re-growing green onions (or anything else) I would love to hear them ๐Ÿ™‚

โค Ashley

Pork Spare Ribs (Homemade BBQ Sauce)


These ribs are super tender, juicy and full of flavor. They are sweet and tangy with a hint of smokiness. You would never guess by tasting them that they are cooked in the oven. This rub and sauce is also delicious for BBQ chicken, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.ย First, lets start with the spice rub:

  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (Mesquite flavored)

Simply mix all of these ingredients together in a small bowl to make a paste. It should look like this:

Place your ribs in a large casserole dish. Massage the spices all over both sides. If you want them to taste really smokey you could brush some liquid smoke onto your ribs before applying the spices.

Now at this point I usually cover my ribs with foil and let them sit in the fridge for a few hours. If you don’t have time for that don’t worry, I have done it last minute before and they still come out yummy. This picture has nothing to do with ribs but I noticed this beautiful woodpecker in the backyard while I was washing my hands. Of course I had to take a picture! Sometimes I like to pretend I work for National Geographic, don’t judge me! lol.

Anyways back to the ribs. When you are ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 350. Pour a cup of liquid into your casserole dish with your ribs. Normally I use white wine, but I was out so I used Marsala cooking wine. You have a lot of different options on what you can use for this, your favorite beer, apple juice, etc. I also add just a small splash of liquid smoke to it as well. Now cover those babies with some foil and pop them in the oven! (make sure the side with the most meat is facing down) Bake them for 2-2 and 1/2 hours. While your ribs are cooking you will want to make the BBQ sauce:

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Mix everything together with a whisk in a small saucepan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will be kinda thin, if you don’t like it that way there is an easy solution. Mix about 1-2 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl with just enough cold water to dissolve it, then pour it into the sauce for the last minute of simmering. You can make it as thick as you would like that way. Never pour cornstarch directly into a sauce, unless you like lumpy sauce lol. If you would like a bit of a kick you can also add some red pepper flakes to taste.

Once your ribs are finished baking and your sauce is complete, take the foil off and brush your ribs with some of the BBQ sauce. Then flip them over onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. This part can get tricky because they are so tender. You may want to have someone help you, or cut your rack of ribs in half to make it easier. The side of the ribs with the most meat should be facing up at this point.

Brush some of your BBQ sauce onto this side, then stick them back in the oven under the broiler (on high). Please do NOT walk away, you will need to check them literally every minute so you don’t burn them. I usually leave them in until the sauce starts bubbling, add more sauce, and put them back in again. I know this sounds like a lot of work but it only takes a few minutes. Again, keep checking them so you do not burn them.ย I take my ribs out when they start getting little charred spots, like as if they were cooked on the grill. That is it! Now you can have all of the yumminess of a summer BBQ in the middle of winter.

Yes those are purple mashed potatoes! I highly recommend this recipe for healthy mashed potatoes. The reason these are purple is because I bought a bag of mixed potatoes and there were some blue ones in there. My daughter loves this meal, especially the BBQ sauce. When I made these last night she asked me “Mama, what did you put in this dinner?!” lol.

If you plan on trying this please let me know, I would also love to hear your reviews if you do try it. I really hope you enjoy my recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

โค Ashley

Homemade Fabric Softener (Fast and Easy!)


Before I found this recipe I was using plain vinegar as my fabric softener. Although it worked great, I couldn’t wait to try this. I absolutely love it! It works just as well as store bought and its WAY cheaper! You will need:

  • 2 cups cheap conditioner (like Suave or V05)
  • 3 cups plain white vinegar
  • 6 cups hot water

Mix your conditioner with the hot water, then add in the vinegar and mix well. Ta-da! You just saved yourself several dollars and it only took about a minute! Also, just like the laundry detergent you are not subjecting your family to unnecessary chemicals. The regular size bottle of conditioner was just about 2 cups so it worked out perfectly. Just give your fabric softener a gentle shake before each use. If you try it, please let me know what you think! ๐Ÿ™‚

โค Ashley