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beauty products from your kitchen

February 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

I’ve been paying attention to all things food for as far back as I can recall, and the more in-depth I go with food, in all aspects of my life, the more I can see over my lifetime that it’s been in me since I was just a little kid.

Back in the early years of college, I used to randomly read Cosmopolitan magazine, long before it became the sensationalist rag that it is today. On one occasion, while sitting in the student union at the U of M, waiting for a perpetually late friend to show up for a study date, I picked up a ragged and torn issue of Cosmopolitan and began paging through it. I came across an article about using regular, ordinary food products for beauty treatments, and read through it, transfixed. Here was simple and easy ways to enhance the look and feel of your skin, using items that everyone has at their fingertips. I slipped the magazine in my backpack, and those pages became so dog-eared from use that I eventually tossed them out. But the information I read there, and keep in mind that this was likely in 1983 or 1984, I have utilized in some way, to this day. And it’s been illuminating to see the food world around me embrace the use of everyday food items for personal use.

The best part about these treatments is that they are completely chemical-free. No worries about absorbing something unsafe into your body, and you aren’t harming the environment when you rinse them down the drain.

Here’s a few of the treatments that I love:


Avocado Hair Mask: Mash one ripe avocado in a bowl with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Apply to slightly damp hair (prior to washing) Rub or comb through and place a plastic bag over your hair to insulate. Wrap your head in a towel and let the treatment sit for an hour. Wash hair as usual. Avocado oil is also good to have on hand. Rub a few drops through your hair after styling to help tame flyaways and make it feel lustrous.

Egg White Skin Toner: Whip an egg white until stiff peaks form. With your fingertips, apply the whites to your freshly washed face. It’s messy, yes; but after a half hour or so when you rinse it off, your skin will feel tight and firm, and man alive, will it glow!! The proteins in egg whites will do wonders for your skin, as well as your eating plan. This can be used on any part of your body.

Sugar Scrubs: These are very popular now, but I’ve been using some form of a sugar scrub for a very long time. Mix a cup of plain white sugar with a few tablespoons of olive, avocado or almond oil and several drops of any essential oil you like (my favorite is bergamot oil- smells like oranges, or lavender). Mix to combine and keep in a sealed jar. Scoop a small amount on wet hands and rub sugar over skin, nail beds and cuticles. Rinse with warm water and apply a good moisturizer. This can be used all over the body for amazing exfoliation. Mix 1/4 cup of coarse cornmeal in with the sugar and oils to use on tougher areas, like feet and elbows. My friend Shaina has a lovely recipe on her blog for Ginger and Coconut Oil Sugar Body Scrub that sounds amazing.

Olive Oil Wash: Olive oil was once prized by ancient civilizations for it’s moisturizing properties, long before it became a staple in cooking. When I worked in a professional kitchen and washed my hands a million times in my 8-hour shift, I would drizzle a bit of olive oil on them to help keep them from cracking and drying out, as it wouldn’t contaminate the food I was preparing like regular lotion. A dime-sized amount in the palm of your hands make a refreshing and pure face wash, lifting dirt and oil gently and without harsh chemicals. Your skin feels incredibly soft and clean. I realize it sounds counterintuitive, but it really works.

Olive oil is also an excellent source of moisture in your hair. As a pre-shampoo treatment, rub it through the ends of your dry hair, then massage a bit on your scalp. Cover your head with plastic and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes before you shampoo and condition as usual. If you use a deep conditioner on your hair, you can add a few drops of olive oil to it before applying for an extra level of moisturizing. {{For more information and ideas: source: Hairlicious}}

Almond Facial Scrub: It helps the look of your skin to exfoliate the dead layers on a regular basis. Crushed almonds make for an amazing facial scrub. Grind the nuts to a coarse powder; add a bit of water and gently rub the mixture over your face, avoiding the tender skin around the eyes. I love how this smooths out rough patches on my forehead, and really cleans up the pores. Coarsely ground oatmeal is also an excellent exfoliator, and is a bit more gentle for sensitive skin.

Almonds are a nutrient powerhouse for the entire body, and one food item worth incorporating in to your eating.

Apple Cider Vinegar: The astringent properties of apple cider vinegar are wonderful for neutralizing minor skin irritations and helping calm the aggravation of yeast infections. A cup of this in a shallow bath is very soothing, and you can dab it on mosquito bites to take the itch away. A cotton swab dipped in apple cider vinegar and touched to acne breakouts can help speed the healing process.

Check out Bragg Live Foods for more information on the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.

Baking Soda Build-Up Remover: As someone who has colored her hair for most of my life, this method for removing build-up on my hair has been the best overall natural treatment I’ve done. If you use any kind of styling products on your hair like gels or sprays, they can build up over time and cause hair to become limp and dull.  I can’t use shampoos that will do this, as they strip the color right out of my hair, making it really flat. But adding a tablespoon of baking soda to my shampoo creates a natural cleanse that leaves my hair shiny and fresh, and most importantly, with the color intact. Keep a box within reach of your shower and add a small amount to your shampoo weekly for best results. It will leave the hair shaft wide open, and your hair might feel a bit rough when you rinse but a good deep conditioner follow-up will take care of that right away. You’ll love how it feels.

Baking soda is a mighty multi-tasker in your household, as many of you know how well it works for cleaning purposes too. Here’s a good article on the versatility of this pantry standard: “51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda”. We use baking soda to keep the litter boxes fresh, and it does wonders on odors in your laundry too.

Shaina also talked recently about using coconut oil in your hair to tame dryness and add a lustrous shine. I’ve tried this a few times and now am hooked on how wonderful it makes my hair feel. I find it helps to enhance the natural curl in my hair too.

Sometime in the mid-90′s, I picked up a book called Blended Beauty, by Phillip B. that was filled with natural, food-based beauty treatments. Published in 1995, this book was way, way ahead of it’s time, listing ingredients like lemongrass, quinoa, kale, coconut oil, fresh herbs and a host of other novelty items that were basically unheard of, or even widely available at that point in time. The book is available on Amazon, and is well worth having in your personal library, especially if you’re like me and hate using chemically laden products on your skin. I’ve tried multiple recipes from the book, and have been very pleased with all of them.

 

Do you use any natural beauty treatments or natural remedies around the house?
What have you found in your food that you love on your skin??

 

{{photo credits: Avocado, Eggs, Sugar, Olive Oil, Almonds, Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda}}

 

 

radishes! radishes! radishes!

July 16th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

People, I’ve madly fallen in love with radishes.

(photo courtesy of Really Natural)  
 

I do remember not particularly liking them as a kid. But then again, I didn’t care for much then anyway, being raised on a typically 1970′s diet, I was your typically picky little thing. Fresh foods weren’t that present in our home so my exposure was lacking and my palate not particularly advanced; it’s no shock I wasn’t at all enamored with the radish’s peppery bite, a sting to the tongue that I found unpleasant. My sister Karen loved them, dragging them through a plate of table salt before popping them in her mouth. Even that typical dressing did nothing to take the edge off the flavor. So for the most part, I’d ignored them.

Then something happened a few years back. On a trip to the Farmers Market, I spied a large bunch of red, white and pink radishes- it was an enormous amount- and was only a dollar. I picked them up, passed a buck to the farmer and placed them in my bag. Once home, I stared at them and thought ‘Great. Now what?’ I ate one, and it was divine. Fresh, snappy, crisp and tart, but not harsh and sour like I recalled. Still, I didn’t leap headfirst into devouring them. I remained rather skeptical. And they languished in my fridge until I was forced to do something, anything, with them.

So I pickled them. On a whim. And went tuckus over teakettle for the crisp little discs, eating them on sandwiches, with my fingers and finally with a fork to grab the last little slices from the dredges of their vinegary brine. And it was soon after that when I first dragged a cold fresh radish through a slab of creamy butter to discover one of the best, and most surprising treats I’ve ever tasted. My eyes were now opened to the radish. Once again. Adulthood is a wonder around every corner, especially when discovering the foods from your childhood that once caused you to turn up your nose are now part of your regular gustatory delight.

So they’ve happily made a comeback; the inexpensive little things can be had sometimes on a 2-fer deal with any farmer willing to move their bounty. I scrub them down and place them in a baggie where they happily keep for days on end, willing that they last that long in my fridge. I eat them for breakfast a lot, sliced thick on good toasted bread with slices of butter, or most recently, this delicious sandwich creation that I’m thoroughly ga-ga over.

A cooked egg, nice and firm is placed a top a bed of greens on nicely toasted bread, and covered with several shredded radishes. The key is to shred the radish directly over the egg. Something about the fresh spray of liquid released makes for a much better flavor. I like spinach with this, but I’ve used spring greens, garden lettuce and romaine as well. This is a summery breakfast, if I’ve ever dreamed of one.

I took my radish love one step further too, recently, when I roasted an entire batch of them.

Roasting radishes takes the sharp flavor away, and replaces it with a mellow soft rendition that is palatable to anyone, even the most avowed radish hater. One would hope, anyway. I could have eaten these like candy, but instead, I caramelized a big pan of vidalia onions and made the two of them into a delicious tart atop a flaky puff pastry crust.

This was a sweet, tender and amazing hand held meal, soft like summer nights, fresh as the season and when topped with just a little Gouda cheese, a bit of savory tang that balanced the vegetables perfectly. Eating a slice of it, on my patio, with a lovely glass of Rosé wine and a perfect summer night surrounding me, I felt a million miles away from my life, but in the simplest way possible. I love how a good meal, with gentle ease can transform an ordinary day into something surreal and dreamy. That’s the magic in a plate of really, really good food.

So…. do you like radishes? What do you like to do with them?

Roasted Radish & Caramelize Onion Tart

Scrub one bunch of radishes well, removing tops and roots. Cut into halves or quarters and toss with a bit of seasoned oil of choice. Roast at 400° until tender. It won’t take too long, maybe 10 minutes.

Slice two Vidalia onions and place in a hot skillet. Cook onions over medium heat, turning frequently, until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add a few tablespoons of brown sugar (or a drizzle of good honey) a tablespoon of kosher salt and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. This is my favorite way to caramelize onions, but you may have your own method. Continue cooking the onions for about 20-30 more minutes, or until they are very soft and richly browned. Stir them on occasion, and be careful not to let them burn.

Thaw one sheet of puff pastry. Roll out sheet to desired thickness on parchment paper, then transfer to baking sheet. Poke holes in pastry with a fork and place in 400° oven, baking until lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, spread caramelized onion over the crust then top with roasted radish and a small amount of a good sharp aged cheese of your choice. I used Gouda because I had a some on hand. Fontina and Gruyere would be good options too. Place back in oven and bake for about 15 more minutes, until edges of pastry are crisp and brown and toppings are hot. Allow to cool slightly, then serve. Can also be served at room temperature.

 
 

turkey hangover, with extras

November 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It happens, right? There’s so much turkey, and celebrating and eating, then more eating and more celebrating and having another piece of pie before we drag full tummies home and into bed, falling exhausted against the pillows.

Then we open the fridge to see all that leftover turkey. That is, if you’re lucky enough to be gifted with leftovers.

I always make more than I think I even need. I’m fine with leftovers, in fact, I love having to re-purpose my food into something else. And this year, with a huge ziploc bag of turkey, I am chomping at the bit to make some awesome meals in the next few days. So, what’s in your plan for that meat? The leftover gravy? The stuffing? Extra potatoes?

These are some ideas for that extra bounty from our holiday.

The simplest of all meals would be to combine turkey, and any leftover gravy that you have and serve it over bread. or leftover mashed potatoes. Or both. Talk about comfort food. This is one of Griffin’s most favorite meals to eat, and I’m sure if I suggest this to him, he will roll his eyes in pleasure, nodding emphatically for me to put it together.

A good frittata is perfect for using up leftovers, and if there are leftover mashed potatoes, you can whip up an interesting version of it by whisking the potatoes and eggs together. This will create a fluffier version of frittata, or make it into a scramble by adding chopped turkey and a little bit of cranberry relish if you have it. Cranberries in eggs is surprisingly good, but just a little as it can easily overpower all other flavors.

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into Potato Cakes. This rich and comforting food is a rare indulgence in our house, but perfect for those potatoes. Form the mashed potatoes into a cake and dredge it in seasoned flour. Heat a skillet, and melt some butter then place the cake in the skillet and let it sit until the bottom is superbly browned and crispy. Carefully flip it over and do the same to the other side. Be patient and keep the heat moderate, as you will be amply rewarded with a crusty and hot little side for your breakfast.

Will you make soup? That’s pretty standard, especially if you have a turkey carcass to use. I love a good soup, and we eat soup in the wintertime every week. My friend Missy has a wonderful recipe for Creamy Turkey Wild Rice soup on her blog. The photos make my mouth water. That’s the kind of soup that will make an appearance in my kitchen too, as there’s nothing better for a cold night than a warm and creamy, comforting pot of soup. One year I discovered just how good leftover gravy was in making soup. I started a pot of vegetables sizzling before I realized that I was out of soup stock base. I did have gravy, leftover in the freezer so I pulled out the container and chopped out just enough pieces, adding it to the pot with water. It made for a perfect soup.

A quick meal to throw together with leftover turkey could be Turkey Quesadillas. We like to keep tortillas on hand, as well as cheese so that a quick meal can be put on the table when the creativity flow has been stymied. Heat your tortilla in a pan then top with shredded cheese and chopped turkey. If you enjoy them, you could add canned beans too, like pinto or black beans. Top with another tortilla, and cook, turning once until tortillas are crispy and browned. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

A good option for lunch would be a turkey salad. I love Curried Chicken Salad, and substituting turkey is perfect. The recipe I include below calls for dried cherries, but subbing either dried cranberries, or even a scoop of extra cranberry relish would make this really delicious. Bonus points for utilization!

Another favorite salad option, one that would be perfect for lunches at work is this Turkey and Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Again, sub in dried cranberries, or the fresh relish for a unique taste. And another good salad option, making a hearty dish that’s perfect for a meal or as a side is this Turkey & Wild Rice Curry Salad from Brenda, of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. I saw her recipe and just about started drooling. I love salads like that; there’s just so much going on in one bowl. It’s a party for anyone’s tastes buds.

And naturally, a turkey sandwich is standard. Jazz it up by spreading your bread with cranberry relish first for a nice twist.

Curry Cashew Chicken Salad
From The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1/2 c. chopped roasted salted cashews
2 green onions, finely chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. mayo or preferred creamy spread
2 T. mango chutney or fruit spread of choice
2 t. curry powder
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. dijon mustard

Combine chicken, fruit, nuts and onion in bowl. Separately, mix together dressing ingredients and stir until combined and creamy. Pour over salad and stir thoroughly to coat. Chill. Eat.

Turkey & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad

1# pasta of choice
2 c. cooked turkey, chopped
1 c. dried cherries (sub cranberries, or even raisins)
1/2 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. minced celery
1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds

Dressing:
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cold water
2 T. poppyseeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine cooked pasta, turkey, dried fruit, onion, celery and almonds in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Serve topped with extra almonds, if desired.

march sunshine

March 9th, 2010 | 15 Comments »

March is a fickle friend, isn’t it? On my birthday in 2007, we had a blizzard that left us buried under 18″ of snow. Way back in 1991, I recall it being 67 degrees on my birthday. This year? We had temps in the 40′s, plenty of warm sunshine and slush covering the ground as we made our way out for my celebratory dinner. March, the month that supposedly comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, rarely seems to be able to make up it’s mind as to what it hands us. It’s the month where we officially hang up Winter, and turn to Spring, eyeing our wardrobe and wishing for the right weather to break out the lighter side of ourselves.

With the stretch of days drenched in gorgeous sunshine, and me fingering the short sleeve shirts in longing, there came yet another craving I haven’t known in some time, perhaps a harbinger of the changing season. It was the desire to not only shed the weight of winter clothing but the heavy and comforting draw of it’s food as well, replacing it with those that snap and crunch in their remarkable shades of green. I really wanted a salad.

Likely spurred on by the current issue of Saveur magazine, and it’s ode to the chopped salad- just in time for Spring!- I took one long glance at the Cobb Salad pictured and my mind high-fived my stomach, both in hearty agreement that it was indeed necessary to create. Right away.

The Cobb Salad was named for Robert L. Cobb, credited with inventing it at his famed Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles in 1937, and made up of chicken, bacon, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, tomato, hard cooked egg, chive, watercress, romaine and iceberg lettuces. It’s now a standard on so many menus, often in a wide array of options, most of them a far cry from the original version.

This time of year I tend to get a lot of food fatigue, and indecision about what my body is needing to eat. I’m tired of winter and it’s stews and braises, of it’s root vegetables and tubers, the lack of fresh options and choices. I want to wash the mittens, hats and scarves and then pack them away. I crave berries and peaches, bare skin and white wine. I am beginning to paw through the Spring clothes in my closet, wishing for the warmth to wear just one item, especially those bought on sale last Fall, many with price tags still attached. I think about pedicures and exposing my toes again. I yearn for the Markets to open, bearing tables of new potatoes, spring peas and the first tender bunches of spinach. The buckets of lettuce soon follow, overflowing in green, and mine for just a few dollars. Seed catalogs tempt me. I want summer foods, long warm twilights sipping rosé, a simple sheet thrown over me at night.

So the salad craving was not a surprise, nor pushed aside, even though the greens came from the store and lacked the flavor of the earth. I splurged on good Nueske’s bacon and burned some aromatic candles to freshen the house. Next time Nueske’s and I meet, it likely will be high summer, alongside crimson orbs of fresh garden tomato.

The salad served me well, filling the need for somewhat lighter fare, yet hearty enough to stick with me through the afternoon hours. The bacon doesn’t exactly make this the healthiest option, but it works for an occasional treat, and the mix of flavors just seems to work. I can’t say why the tang of blue cheese, smoky bacon, moist chicken and creamy avocado make for such a pleasing plate of flavor, maybe it’s the carnival of tastes going on at once, a culinary samba that relentlessly entertains your mouth. I sure know that I need waking up from the snow, hearty foods and sweaters, my metaphor of winter. My tastebuds seem to as well. Here’s to more salad, and increasing temperatures, all things Spring and sunshine.

inspirational eggs

January 8th, 2010 | 52 Comments »

It’s my new favorite, my breakfast to satisfy in so many ways and means. But there is also a thin measure of sadness when I make them, as I am the only one in my house that will ever be able to enjoy these. Mike doesn’t eat eggs- I know!- and Griffin doesn’t eat potato skins. I know! Who are these two? Sometimes, it befuddles me.

But it doesn’t stop me from enjoying a simple egg breakfast, or even dinner on my lone Wednesday evenings when the guys are both gone. I treasure those nights; an empty house, the music I love and a kitchen humming with singular possibilities. The food that I make for myself, for my ‘alone’ time is so different than what comes from the cookware on other nights. I can satisfy my appetite with nibbles of many different items, a bite of this or that, grazing from the fridge and pantry until my tummy says “Ahhh. Thanks. That’s good for now.” Maybe if it was how I supped all the time it would get old, possibly lonesome. But I don’t, so it balances those nights that Griffin charges down the stairs, hopping around in delight, and Mike comes beaming into the kitchen nearly singing “Something smells gooo-ood!”

But, about those eggs.

Baked eggs, well they’re nothing new. Called ‘Shirred Eggs’ if you want to get technical and all, you just place them in buttered ramekins or chafing dishes and set them in a hot oven until they are cooked to your liking. Dusted with salt and pepper, it’s a simple meal, especially if placed atop a slice of hearty rye bread, and maybe a slab of briny ham. Having a warm oven on to soothe the ravages of a bitter January night also makes them ever appealing. I had dropped a half dozen potatoes into the oven prior to running Griffin to his youth group night, and when I came home to a fragrant house, soft mealy potatoes and the desperate need to fill my gnawing mid-section, somehow the thought of a twice-baked potato morphed into a baked egg, encased in a crunchy potato skin and soon enough I was sighing happily through so simple and yet so great a repast that I could hardly believe it hadn’t been done before. But as I nibbled, sighed some more and gazed blithely at the scene on my plate, it saddened me to know that my family would never eat it. But if my Project365 Flickr friends are any indication, there is plenty of interest to be had out there, among the fervent internet web I have woven around this little blog.

Here’s what you do:

This dish requires nicely baked potatoes. You need skins that are good and sturdy to hold your egg. I like my baked spuds to be superbly soft and mealy and often bake them much longer than most people. The skins pucker, and they look like they’ve nearly collapsed inside. Be sure to have some potato size that will adequately hold an egg inside. The ones I baked were almost too small. Keep the oven on after the potatoes are done. Mine was set at 400°.

Once baked and cool enough to handle, slice the potato as if you plan to make Twice Baked- I cut a slip of skin off the top to make more of a cup-like shape. Scoop the interior- gently!  into a bowl and if you’re like me, add a small pat of butter, some good salt and a grind of pepper, and nibble on it while you make your eggs. Lay the bare potato skins on a baking sheet and place them back in the oven for maybe 5 minutes. This firms up the skin, making them more sturdy. I placed the skins in ramekins to help support them to hold the eggs, but that’s because mine were rather small. If yours are large enough, this won’t be necessary. Remember that if the skins tear or split, they won’t hold the raw egg.

Have a small measuring cup with a spout ready, and crack one egg in to it. Make sure your potato skin is already on the baking sheet. With the raw egg in it, it is difficult to move. Gently pour the egg into the skin. Season any way you wish. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the egg until it is set to your liking. I am not a soft-set girl by any means, and I baked mine until they were very firm with only a small amount of soft egg left. The time needed will vary accordingly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Top with cheese, bacon, seasoned bread crumbs- my way in the photos- or whatever suits your fancy. If firm enough, they can be sliced and eaten out of hand but I suggest sitting down with knife and fork, and quietly enjoying them with each rapturous bite.

And be sure to also use those slices you’ve cut away from the tops. With a bit of salt, they bake into the most delectable potato chip.

Wordless Wednesday

May 13th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

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