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Friday, March 30, 2012

Lemon Goodness and Flop

So here is an update on the Lemon Love post. There were two things I did with the lemons that needed time and so I wanted to write about what happened. One was a success and the other a Flop.

First I was planning to extract the oil from the peel:  Big Flop. I didn’t get very far. I thought I did everything right, but mold found my peels. Yuck! I was very sad about this but I wasn’t about to continue with the experiment and use contaminated oil. Oh well… maybe I will try this again with my oranges. I am waiting for an afternoon of no plans and no rain to be able to pick oranges and take care of that business.
One flop deserves a success! 

The next experiment was to make an enzyme cleaner with lemon and orange peels, brown sugar and water. Simple to put together and babysit. It was supposed to take 3 weeks and that time has come and gone. It was really interesting that I had to let the pressure out of the bottle sometimes more than once a day until the mixture decided it was ready. After the 3 week waiting period, the gas buildup was not really noticeable so could easily stay sealed.  But I must say that the air coming out of the container smelled nice and citrusy. Very pleasant!

The ultimate test: trying it out. I diluted the enzyme with water at a 1:1 ratio and put it to the test around my kitchen. I have to say that I almost expected to see little “enzymes” eating away at the grime, but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic. In fact it acted as any other cleaner does… only it smells much better! 

I actually tried it out in a couple of places. It felt like water when I was cleaning, although it worked better and on my flours it did the job and felt clean afterwards (I secretly thought my flours and countertops would have a sticky residue but not a bit of stickiness to be found.). Can’t wait to try it in other ways!

According to HappyHommaker88 , some wonderful uses for this non-toxic concoction are:
1)  do dishes and laundry (use 1/4 cup of enzyme)
2) for washing bathrooms and toilets. grime comes off easily (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water) 
3) for removing stubborn stains and odors (colored fabrics and floors) (use undiluted)
4) to clean vegetables and fruits (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water)
5) clear blockages in kitchen sinks and drains (use concentrated or blended pulp/sludge of enzyme)
6) as a natural insect repellent (use undiluted) for ants, cockroaches.. (pouring some enzyme into sink/bath/shower stall drainage holes will deter cockroaches).
7) as a floor wash to mop floors shiny clean (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)
8 ) as fertilizer for vegetables, flowering and non-flowering plants (use 1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)
9) as a skincare product, e.g. facial cleanser or toner (1 part enzyme to 2 parts water)
10) wash cars – cars will look as if they have just been polished! (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)

It is so nice to have multipurpose cleaners like this. Why buy all of those “1 thing” cleaners when you can have a bottle of vinegar and a bottle of this cleaner that does it all? I am really looking forward to making more batches and experimenting with this. Especially with Pineapple and other fruits to see what balance I like the most. I might as well capitalize on this season of lovely fruits and make enough for the rest of the year. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Muffin Bliss

I am so happy with my cappuccino mix, that I thought I would continue with this trend. I spent a couple hours searching for various mix ideas to try. Bring them on!

I have been making a lot of muffins lately partly because my son doesn't want to eat sweat breads (i.e. banana bread) as a snack, but he’ll eat a muffin… well, a chocolate muffin. I have hopes that he will expand his eating list, but for now I’ll add cocoa. I have posted a recipe for chocolate banana muffins before. Last night I made a similar muffin with the addition of peanut butter and oatmeal – SO good. I think this one is better than the last and I have reason to believe the kids feel the same since it was a hit for breakfast AND snack time. Anyway, while I was making the muffins I decided to also make a mix that will make muffin making much faster in the future.

The big benefit of the boxed ready-packed muffin mixes is that they take no time to make and only need a couple of wet ingredients. But there is a downside to the mixes and that is added ingredients meant to increase the shelf life of the mix while contributing to the obesity rate of the people consuming them (or is that a perk?). There can’t possibly be a good thing that comes from consuming ingredients that you can’t pronounce. So convenience is a good thing and saving money and time (which are synonymous) is a
great thing.

I found a basic recipe at but because I am me I have to change it. Which basically means that I take out ½ of the flour to substitute wheat flour and add wheat germ and flax seeds to give it that added nutrition without the family knowing (adding these extra ingredients is one of the reasons why it takes me so long to make stuff). My recipe:

   Muffin Mix

4 cups all-purpose/bread flour
4 cups wheat flour
3 cup sugar
1/3 cup baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup Wheat Germ 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Yield: 4 batches (10 cups).

Yes, this is a picture of the inside of my cabinet.
I LOVE these containers and my Brother Label Maker.
To Make Combine:
2 ½ Cups of Mix
¼ cup oil or butter
2 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp Vanilla
¼ cup apple sauce (optional)
1/3 cup yogurt (optional)
1/4 tsp molasses (if you prefer brown sugar rather than white in a recipe)


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners or use shortening/oil so muffins don’t stick. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until fully blended.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before you cover them or transfer to a freezer ziplock bag to freeze. 

You can add any variation of ingredients to the mix to make it the kind of muffins you want. For example, to make the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins I mentioned earlier all I had to do was add:
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
6 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
¼ c baking cocoa
1 cup old-fashioned oats
A couple chocolate chips for the top of each muffin

Mix it up. Pop it in the oven. Gotta love it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dental Makeover - Part 2

Here is my log I kept to mark my dental progress and really just to see if it made any difference. And then my personal findings are at the end.

One of the things I mentioned in the first post is that diet has an effect on your teeth. I have been taking vitamins and supplements (when I remember to). I generally am a very healthy eater (hopefully this will rub off on my kids one day). But since I started cooking from scratch and doing more research (YEA internet!) I have changed several things. Besides the obvious benefits of cooking from scratch rather than eating processed foods, the big change has to do with the oil I am using. Coconut oil and Grape seed oil were foreign to me until fairly recently and now that is mostly what I cook with because they can withstand high temperatures. Maybe that makes a difference?

So now on to oil pulling. I battled with the question of whether to do it on a daily basis? Twice a day? Every other day? I really had no clue and it seems that it has to do with the general health a person is in. So I think I am safe if I skip a day but I am generally going to try to do this daily as I am getting ready to meet the day. I had to put a container of oil upstairs to remember. I planned to alternate weeks using olive oil and coconut oil. However, I found olive oil a bit nasty – I think the smell made me gag- so a little into it I decided to stick with the coconut oil. I keep a jar in my bathroom with a baby spoon to dish it out.

Day 1 – This is actually my second time. I tried it about a week ago. But now that I’ve written about it, I am committed! I used olive oil and besides having a rather active gag reflex whenever the oil made it to the back of my mouth, I was good. My kids found it rather amusing that I was miming to them to “get dressed” and “get going”.
What was very interesting to me was the amount of mucus I felt in the back of my throat for the next couple hours. Is this normal?

Day 2 – Surprisingly it was super easy and not as gross today. I accidently swallowed flem that came up – need to remember to spit it out. I didn’t make it the whole 20 minutes since I somehow managed to get air in my mouth. I had to get to the sink quick to spit the oil out. I had to change my shirt – don’t ask. But the stuff I spit out was of a milky consistency. My teeth are strangely sensitive.

Day 3 – I had a headache tonight.

Day 4 – I realized that my teeth have never felt this clean before All Day.

Day 5 – I woke up with a cold. Throat and headache… I didn’t oil pull this morning. But I don’t think this is going to turn into anything major, so I will be at it again tomorrow.

Day 6 – Back at it. I realized today that my teeth haven’t been sensitive for a day or so.

Day 7 – I used Coconut Oil this morning. I think the reason my gag reflex was working the last couple days had to do with the smell of the olive oil. No problems with the coconut. Love this oil! I might just stick to it the rest of the experiment. The only thing is the initial melting of the oil, which is odd. But I figured out that if you keep it at the front of your mouth it melts quickly and then you don’t have to chew it. 20 minutes went by quickly and my teeth still felt really clean throughout the day.

Day 9 – I looked in my mouth (duh!) and noticed that the gums around my teeth look healthy and not dark pink or red. That seems to be a positive.

I really didn’t keep up on the log for very long. Partly because I’m lazy and partly because every day was about the same. But I kept it up!
I find it strangely therapeutic at this point (day like 15). Partly because it is a quiet time for me; my kids can talk all they want but I can’t respond verbally. When I was a teenager, I would roll out of bed get ready and go to school and say as little as possible. I have never been a morning person… enter kids and then you have to be the driving force to get them dressed, fed and out the door. Mornings are forced on you. So this has actually given me 10-20 minutes of quiet time I have always needed to wake up. Bonus for me.

I am flossing right after oil pulling and I seem to get more on my floss in the morning than I do even in the evening. I have noticed that even at 4 in the afternoon, my teeth still feel clean—as clean as if I just went to the hygienist. I really like that!

The other thing I have noticed is that I regularly have mucus coming up to spit out (not normal for me) and on an even more gross (and personal) side my BM have actually been more regular which makes sense if this is technically a whole-body detox. I have always had issues with irregularity in that department unless I exercise on a very regular basis, but that certainly isn’t happening.

Day 26 - the Verdict:
Today I saw the hygienist (I am on a 4 month schedule) today. I didn’t get x-rays so I’m not sure about those cavities so I will have to see about that one in May. But the hygienist was amazed at my mouth – that sure sounds funny. She said that my gums are no longer bleeding. The gum pockets on the side of my teeth are not as deep or full of grime. I had hardly any plaque to remove. “What have you been doing? Flossing more?” ummm, no. So I told her about the oil pulling that I was trying; which she wrote down to research since she hadn’t heard of it before. In fact if my teeth look this good at my next appointment I get to go to a normal 6 month schedule. Woo hoo! Success.

I am so making my husband try this

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cappuccino Mix

I have a list in my head of all the mixes I want to replace in my kitchen. These include mixes that I already buy or canned items I would rather not buy. And I am so excited to find recipes to replace these things! Not only is it a lot less money I’m spending on silly things, but as it turns out, it is much healthier since I don’t add MSG or “natural flavoring” or salt or food dies or… you get the picture.

One thing I have been buying that I recently made was Cappuccino Mix. I buy it for the convenience, but when Jeremy and I start going through a can every 6 weeks it is time to take a look at what is in it. As it turns out, a google search gave me a long list of recipes that were identical. So I decided to try it. YUM. A little more of a coffee flavor than I am used to, but that isn't a bad thing and I can use it the same!

The only ingredient that I didn't have on hand was the instant coffee, which cost the same as my store-bought cappuccino mix ($11) at Costco. However, the instant coffee will probably last me a year or more in homemade mixes. I don’t really want to do the math since it will hurt my brain. But that's a significant savings.

Homemade Cappuccino Mix
  • 1 Cup  Instant Coffee crystals
  • 1 cup chocolate drink mix (like Nesquik) or instant hot chocolate mix
  • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup  Non-Fat Dry Milk
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
Simply heat up water, place 2-3 tablespoons of your mixture into a cup, and then add water and mix! I shook it right up in the jar. I left the scoop from the old store-bought mix in there since it is the perfect size.
This jar was full. I already got into it!
There is a recipe variation that calls for 1 cup of non-dairy coffee creamer and so only ½ cup of sugar (there is sugar in the creamer). I’m sure the taste isn’t dramatically different, but after reading the ingredients on the back of the creamer I have opted to donate the can rather than open it to use. If I am making a mix myself, I don’t want to add anything with crazy ingredients. In fact, the nesquick can be replaced with Ovaltine or a wannabe mix like:

Chocolate Wannabe Mix
2/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Cocoa
Pinch of salt

This is a no brainer for me. Buy-buy store bought mix. . . Next!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lemon Love

When life gives you lemons… make stuff!

My neighbor has a lemon tree infested with fruit that the rarely use. He invited me over to pick as many as I wanted and Oh Boy! I picked 2 bags worth and didn’t make a dent! I think I will have to go over get more soon. But until then I have some projects…

So I cleaned all these beauties and...

1. Made Zest.
I zested 9 lemons onto a cookie sheet to freeze and store in my freezer for cooking with. Once the zest is frozen, I added it to a small container. I like to always have room for a cookie sheet in my freezer to freeze things separately, that way they don’t freeze sticking together in the bag they are stored in.

2. Juiced.
When I juice lemons I put the juice right in ice cube trays to freeze. When they are frozen I pop them into a ziplock bag for later. I cook with the juice and use it for cocktails & tea when I’m sick. I also can offer guests lemon aid (which I don’t drink) by adding the cubes to some water with sugar. Ta Da.

In the end of this little project I had 9 ice cube trays of frozen lemon juice; which translates to 2 large ziplock bags full in my freezer. 

3. Extract Lemon Oil
I followed the tutorial at Condo Blues. I let the peels dry out on a cookie sheet.
Later I will put them in a bottle with vodka, let the alcohol evaporate and … oil! (I hope). I have bought some cheep vodka

4. Citrus Enzyme cleaner
I used the tutorial on Hommade Mamas which can be used for almost everything and is made with the peels of lemons and oranges, water and brown sugar.

Looking down the opening at the peels
Wow! I have to make another post to discuss how my lemon oil and enzyme cleaner turned out. I am really excited that I am able to use almost all of the fruit. Times like these I wish my lemon tree didn’t die.