Food Recipes

Homemade “Caramel” Apple Dip


Today I may have just stumbled upon the EASIEST and most amazing apple dip ever! At least that is what I would like to think 😉 My 4-year-old took one bite and told me I HAD to write a blog about it. With fall just around the corner it means there will be lots of apple picking and eating going on. I remember getting so excited when my mom would bring home the caramel apple dip from the store. She only bought it every once in a while as a special treat but I found a way to get the same taste with out all the sugar and guilt. My daughter wanted an apple this morning, and lately I have been making her a dip that is a mixture of yogurt, peanut butter, honey and ground flax seeds (also really yummy by the way). I didn’t feel like eating that particular dip this morning, I wanted something more fall like… so I came up with this. You probably won’t even need to write this one down, it is so easy to remember.

  • 1/4 cup plain (organic) yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Stir together and voila, creamy, caramel-y tasting goodness! Skip all of those dips loaded with sugar and preservatives and just try this simple and healthy dip once, you won’t be sorry 🙂 I am not gonna lie I kinda felt like a genius for coming up with this even though it is so easy haha.

Next time I will probably be mixing some flax-seed meal into this dip as well, I am always trying to find ways to get more into our diet. (For other ideas on how to eat more flax-seed and why it is good for you check out this post) I bet this would also be amazing with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Do you plan on trying this, what did you think, what are your other favorite apple dips? Enjoy!

❤ Ashley

Uncategorized

Homemade Shampoo Part Two


Since my homemade shampoo recipe is by far the most popular post on my blog, I decided it was time for a part two! I have had many questions on here, and facebook that I wanted to address and I also have some new ideas to share as well.

First of all, I know some of you may be hesitant to buy a whole bag of xanthan gum just to try my shampoo recipe and I don’t blame you one bit! The good news is they sell little tiny packets of it! I found these in the baking aisle for less than 50 cents each! One packet has enough to make a gallon of shampoo, perfect for making a test batch 🙂 I have to tell you I was so excited when I saw these lol. Seriously who gets excited over xanthan gum? I don’t blame my husband for occasionally shaking his head at me haha.

Probably the most common question I get asked is if there is a way to make the shampoo thicker. I know it can be a little hard to adjust when you are used to the products in the store. I have been able to make it thicker but still not as thick as commercial shampoo. I will share the recipe to make it slightly thicker at the end of this post. I am sure you could get it even thicker if you wanted, but part of the reason I make this is to save money. If you are trying to make it thicker you will be using more ingredients, which means it will cost you more money. It will also take you more time to make it. I would love to experiment even more but I make no money from this blog and can not afford to waste supplies I need. Yes it is rather thin, but it still works great for us. Just put it in a squirt bottle and apply it directly to your head and you are good to go 🙂

A couple of people have mentioned to me that their hair did not feel quite clean after using this. There are a few reasons why you might have this problem. This shampoo will not strip your hair like the harsh detergents in store-bought shampoo. You may need to massage this into your scalp a little more than you would with your old shampoo, it is meant to be more gentle on your hair and scalp. I have also read about your hair/scalp having an adjustment period when you stop using store-bought shampoo. You can add a little extra castile soap and slowly cut back on the amount you use while your hair gets used to the new shampoo. If it is used to being stripped of oils, it is used to making extra oil to compensate. You may need a few weeks to adjust to this, but please don’t let this discourage you. If your hair looks greasy on the second day, simply brush some cornstarch through it. This will help absorb the oil and you can even add a little essential oil to the cornstarch first for a nice scent 🙂 I do not wash my hair every day, it is bad for your hair and frankly a pain. No matter what I use I still have the problem of my hair being a little greasy looking on the second day. Sadly some of us are just “blessed” that way. No store-bought product ever helped me with that issue either but my homemade shampoo does still get my oily hair clean.

Another fairly common question is “How long does it keep?”  I don’t think there is any set answer to this question. Honestly I think this really depends on how you make it and store it. If you boil your water first, use an essential oil that is anti-microbial and then store your extra shampoo in a dark, cool place I am sure that will help it last longer. I have kept mine under my bathroom sink for 3 months before it went bad. If you are concerned about this I would make a half recipe at a time, and I would also suggest smelling it before refilling your shampoo bottle for the shower. You will definitely be able to tell if it has gone bad or not.

I wanted to add that it is NOT necessary to use tea.  Since my original shampoo post I have made it with just plain water and prefer to make it that way now. It is easier, cheaper and works just as great. If you use water and unscented castile soap (like Dr. Bronners Baby Mild) it is better for children or individuals with sensitive skin 🙂 I have also made homemade liquid castile soap since my original shampoo post that you can use if you don’t want to buy or can’t find Dr. Bronners.

I hope this information has helped clear up any questions you may have. If anyone has any other questions please feel free to post a comment and I will do my best to help you. I would also love to hear more reviews as well 🙂 This is still the only shampoo that we use and I don’t foresee us switching back to store-bought anytime soon! We have been very happy with it and I hope you will give it a try if you haven’t already.

❤ Ashley

Homemade Shampoo – Thicker Formula

  • 13 cups water or tea
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup castile soap
  • 30 drops essential oils (optional)

Add 13 cups of water to a large pot. In a seperate bowl mix together the remaining cup of cold water and cornstarch, whisk until no lumps remain. Pour cornstarch mixture into large pot with the water. Bring to a boil and whisk constantly for several minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, whisk in baking soda, xanthan gum and castile soap. Let cool completely, mix in essential oil.

 

Edit added on 08/06/2012 ~ After using the thicker formula a few times I have noticed that it does not foam up as much as my original shampoo recipe. It still works to get your hair clean but I will be sticking with the original or skipping the cornstarch and just using less water 🙂

Beauty/Body Recipes, Cleaning Recipes, Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized

Homemade Liquid Castile Soap



I love Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, the only problem is that when you use as much castile soap as I do the price can add up. I heard of Kirk’s castle bar soap so I bought it to use in the shower. I really loved it and it is super cheap compared to other soaps. It’s all natural and made with coconut oil, but it does not smell like coconut.  I found it in the regular soap aisle at Wal-Mart, you can also order it here: Kirk’s Castile Soap

I have made liquid hand soap out of other bars of soap before, so I figured I could make this into liquid castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s. 

I ended up with a nice liquid soap, but very thin. I was actually a little disappointed and thought that I had watered it down too much, until I used it. It was still very sudsy and effective! You could use less water if you wanted it thicker but for me this works just fine. Here are some of the ways that we use it around our house:

Face/body wash in the shower (add baking soda for a great exfoliating wash)

Hand soap (in a regular pump bottle or about 1/4 soap to 3/4 water in a foaming dispenser)

In place of Dr. Bronner’s in my homemade shampoo (I double the amount for this)

To clean fruits and veggies from the store (to remove germs and pesticide residue if you buy conventionally grown produce)

In place of Dr. Bronner’s for cleaning (Diluted with hot water for mopping the floor, cleaning the walls, cabinets, etc.)

Bathing pets

Pest control in the garden (Drop bugs into a bucket of hot soapy water)


Homemade Liquid Castile Soap:

1. Grate 1 bar of Kirk’s castile bar soap into large pot or container.

2. Add 10 cups hot water, stir until soap dissolves.

3. Store covered. (I use empty gallon-size water jugs and shake gently before use)

Update – This liquid soap seems to thicken or gel up when cold, store in a warm area of your house and it should remain liquid. 

I really love this stuff and you can’t beat the price. Little changes like this can make a big difference in your budget and eliminating toxic chemicals from your life. It takes hardly any time at all to make, it is cheap, all natural and works wonderfully. If you can think of any other uses for this please feel free to share in the comments. Enjoy!

❤ Ashley

 

 

Cleaning Recipes

Homemade All-Natural Cinnamon Scented Cleaner


I have tried a few a lot of recipes for homemade all-purpose cleaners. I keep going back to this one because its super easy, works great and smells great too. My favorite part? No chemicals! It only has three ingredients so it is not hard to remember how to make it when you run out. Don’t worry if you are not a fan of cinnamon, you can use other scents as well 🙂 You will need:

  • Large clean spray bottle
  • Measuring cup
  • 12 oz. White vinegar
  • 12 oz. Water
  • 20-40 drops Cassia essential oil (depending on how strong you want it to smell)

A quick word about my measuring cup in the picture above. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves to cook. It is a flexible silicone measuring cup, I have had it for almost 2 years and I love it. (Here is the link to the site if you want more info about it: Flex-It Silicone Measuring Cup) Ok back to the recipe!! Add the water, vinegar and essential oil to the large spray bottle and shake, that is it! (Give a quick shake before each use as well)

Just a few warnings:

  • Avoid eye contact, the cassia oil will burn!
  • Do not use cassia essential oil if pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Do not use this cleaner (vinegar) on granite counter tops
  • You may develop the sudden urge to bake cinnamon rolls

Now some of you who are new to this homemade stuff may wonder if this will really clean/sanitize your surfaces. Well the answer is yes! Vinegar and cassia essential oil are both anti-microbial 🙂 The other benefit to using essential oils in your homemade cleaning products is that you are getting aroma-therapy while you are cleaning! Cassia oil is very refreshing, uplifting and comforting. If you would like more information on cassia oil and its uses you can find some great info here and here. Some other great essential oils you could use in this recipe (that are also anti-microbial) would be lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon and oregano.

Happy cleaning!

❤ Ashley

Food Recipes

Quick & Easy Homemade Yeast Rolls


When I was little, my dad used to take my sister Amanda and I to visit family in Texas every summer. When we would go visit my Nanny (great-grandma) in Palestine she would always have lots of yummy food ready when we got there. We would have a great meal, all of the best southern comfort foods. Then we would sit on her front porch and watch literally HUNDREDS of hummingbirds swarm the feeders at sunset. One of the things I really looked forward to were her homemade rolls. This is not her recipe, but it must be pretty darn close! I took one bite of these, warm out of the oven with some honey butter and it flooded my mind with memories of my Nanny. I found this recipe on Your Homebased Mom. I followed it exactly the first time, but this time I attempted to make it a little healthier. I figured I wouldn’t feel so guilty about wanting to devour the entire batch by myself lol. These are SO soft and tender and don’t take long to whip up. It is more work than opening a can of dough from the fridge but I promise you it is worth it. Your house will smell like a bakery, and best of all you will get bragging rights! lol.

Ok here we go! Quick Homemade Yeast Rolls (Makes 12):

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm (not hot) water
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used canola)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used honey)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 and 1/2 cups flour (I used all-purpose, whole wheat and ground oatmeal)

 

In your mixing bowl, combine the water, oil, yeast and honey – allow to sit for 15 minutes. This is proofing the yeast, it should start to foam up like this:

The original recipe I tried said to use your dough hook with a stand mixer for this next part… however when I tried that the dough just “climbed” up the hooks and made a big mess. I prefer just to mix this recipe by hand. Add in your salt, egg and flour until well incorporated. The original recipe says to use bread flour or all-purpose flour, but since I was trying to make it a little healthier I used 2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, then 1/2 cup of finely ground oatmeal (I just put quick oats into my food processor to grind them up) Now both times I made these, that was not enough flour. I was left with a very thin and sticky dough. At this point add in 1/4 cup of flour at a time until your dough starts forming a ball and is not sticky anymore. Each time I added an additional 1 and 1/2 cups of flour (this can vary by where you live and the weather so this is why I say add in 1/4 cup at a time, you don’t want to add too much) Knead for just a couple of minutes until its soft and smooth. Your dough should look something like this:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish. Form dough into 12 balls and place into the greased dish.

Don’t worry if they are not perfect. Somehow I ended up with balls that were slightly bigger than the rest. I put them on the outside edge so they will cook through. Let them rise for 10 minutes. Then bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top (it took about 13 minutes for our oven).

At this point you can brush them with half of a stick of melted butter, garlic butter or my personal favorite; honey butter. I use half of a stick of butter and an equal amount of  local raw honey YUM!

Beware though… these are so good you might have to protect them from cute little roll thieves!

They are also great for sandwiches!

Enjoy!

❤ Ashley

 

 

 

 

Food Recipes

Homemade Popcorn & Recipe for Birthday Cake Popcorn Balls


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If you are still buying popcorn in microwavable bags you are wasting money! When you make it yourself not only are you saving money but you know exactly what is in it. No artificial colors or flavors, no extra oils! Look at the ingredients of the stuff they sell in the store, it does not sound very appealing! This way is incredibly easy, and you can still make it in the microwave! All you need is plain paper bags and the kernels. It is less than $1.50 for each of those. So for about the same price as a box of store-bought microwaveable popcorn you can get A LOT more popcorn and its healthier, yay! 🙂 Did you know that popcorn counts as a whole grain, and 2 cups of it only has about 60 calories?! From 1/4 cup of kernels you get about 6 cups of popped corn, amazing right?

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Ready to make some yet? All you have to do is pour your 1/4 cup of kernels into a plain paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice and set it in the microwave standing straight up. Cook time will very depending on your microwave, but between 1:20-1:30 is perfect for ours. The directions for cooking are basically the same as store-bought, when the pops are about 2-3 seconds apart its done.

Now at this point you can eat it plain, smother it in butter like Paula Dean would probably do, season it with some herbs & spices…. OR… you can make some delicious birthday cake popcorn balls! Image

I just came up with this recipe and I am really excited about it. It’s not too sweet, not too salty, you can still taste the popcorn, but you get the cake flavor too. I LOVE sweet and salty combos, and who doesn’t love cake?! (Besides my own husband lol) I was inspired by this recipe here but it looked too sweet for my taste. It is made with white chocolate so if you are a fan of white chocolate you may prefer her recipe. I however am not a big fan of white chocolate, and didn’t have any on hand anyways. I decided to instead use marshmallows and shape it into balls. I think they came out super cute, especially when put in a cupcake liner. These would be a great birthday party favor! Here is what you will need:

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick – plus more for hands)
  • 1 (10 oz) package of mini marshmallows
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Funfetti cake mix
  • 12 cups popped popcorn
  • rainbow sprinkles

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You will want to make sure that the popcorn has no leftover kernels, so just get a cute kid to help you with that 🙂

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In a large pot on low heat, melt your 1/4 cup of butter. Stir in your marshmallows and salt. It will take a little while for the marshmallows to melt all the way. This would be a good time to do some dishes, refill your salt & pepper shakers, call your mother, whatever… If you stand over the pot staring at those suckers it will seem like an ETERNITY! You will just want to check them every minute or so and give them a quick stir. Once they are all melted it will look like this:

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Now stir in your cake mix, a little at a time to avoid lumps. Remove from heat. Dump in your popcorn and gently stir it all together. I find its best to use a spatula and fold it in, that way you don’t crush the popcorn. It will look all gooey and stringy like this:

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Set out a strip of wax or parchment paper (or a greased cookie sheet would be fine I’m sure). Take some extra butter and rub it all over your hands. This will keep your popcorn mixture from sticking to you. You will want to work quickly, before the mixture cools and hardens up… just use caution as the mixture might still be a little hot. If it’s too hot to work with let it cool for a minute or so. Then just take a handful and shape into a ball. I had to put just a little more butter on my hands between each one, or else it started sticking to me. Set them on the paper to cool. Once you have shaped all of your popcorn balls and washed the butter off of your hands, add some sprinkles. How many you end up with will depend on how big you make them. I got 13 from this batch. Aren’t they adorable?!

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It shouldn’t be too hard to find a taste tester for this recipe. Show a kid rainbow sprinkles, tell them it tastes like cake and they are all over it! (Hmmm maybe I should use that trick for veggies?) My daughter approves 🙂

Enjoy and please let me know what you think!

❤ Ashley