Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Grilled Plum Crumble



I've officially knocked "grill some sort of fruit" off my bucket list! And I have no idea why it took me so darn long. Normally, I'm not a fan of plums because the skins are too thick, but grilling them softens them up nicely and makes them completely acceptable to me.

Actually, much more than acceptable!

If you want to or need to skip the grilling part, you'll have to bake the crumble longer in the oven and cover the container with foil so the crumble doesn't burn.

A couple weeks ago I took a CreativeLive course on food photography from Todd Porter and Diane Cu (White on Rice Couple) and it was incredible! I was getting in a rut with my photography and although I was getting somewhat consistent results, I didn't have the thought process for changing when I needed to.

Needless to say, I ended up buying the course and hopefully I'll continue to learn and stretch in this area!

Gather up your friends, and grill them up a humble crumble. They'll owe you!


Grilled Plum Crumble
Yield: 6-8 servings


4 plums, halved and pits removed
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch sea salt
Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with honey or vanilla stevia, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and a grill to medium high heat.

Place the halved plums on the grill, flat sides down and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Very ripe plums will only take a few minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, pecans,  butter, honey, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal place. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped and you can form the mixture into a ball with your hands.

Remove from the grill and place flat sides up in a 1 1/2-quart size casserole dish.

Sprinkle the nut crumble over the plums and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the crumble is browned.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and serve at any temperature.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups



Oh. My. Goodness. You know how some foods sound really good, but they taste even better? These are like that.

I was inspired by an almond butter I saw once in the store, but then decided to use cashews instead of almonds. Now I feel like it owe it to myself to go back and try these again with almonds.

Technique-wise, there's nothing too crazy going on here, but there is some special equipment, like a pastry brush and a food processor that you'll need. You may be able to get by without the pastry brush, but please don't try making cashew butter without a good food processor. This beast is the one I have and love. If you don't have a food processor, buy the most delicious sounding nut butter you can find in the store and use that instead.




Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups
Yield: 18 cups


1 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon coconut oil, refined to avoid coconut flavor
3/4 teaspoons espresso ground coffee, or espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla beans seeds, or seeds from one vanilla bean
10-ounce bittersweet chocolate chips

Line 18 muffin tins with paper muffin liners.

In a large food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the cashews for 30 seconds. Add the honey, coconut oil, coffee, and vanilla bean seeds. Continue processing and scraping down the sides of the container periodically until the cashews form a thick smooth dough. You'll know it's ready if you can pick up piece and easily roll it into a ball.

Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and remove from heat.

Drop 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of the paper liners and spread it slightly up the sides of the paper with a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, you may be able to tip the chocolate up around the edges of the liners.

Once you have filled all 18 liners, place the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Roll and teaspoon-sized ball of the cashew butter between your hands and flatten into a disc that will fit into the hardened chocolate (see image above). Fill each cup this way and return to the freezer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remelt the chocolate if it has thickened and pour 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of chocolate over the cashew butter discs, using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate out to the edges to seal in the cashew butter.

Return to the freezer to set for another 5 minutes.

Store in a covered container in the fridge or freezer.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jacked-Up Honey Face Wash



I realize that many people out there have already talked about washing your face with honey: Lauren, Kate, and Leslie are the ones that introduced me to the idea. If you haven't read what these ladies have to say about it, you may wonder why anyone would want to spread that sticky stuff all over your face. Well, here's why:
  • Since honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, it helps fight bacteria that may be contributing to acne. That little fact alone was enough to convince me to try it initially.
  • Honey also is a humectant, which means it gently moisturizes.
  • Since it's gentle, even those with sensitive skin, rashes, or eczema benefit from honey.
  • It's great for all skin types and once you rinse it off, you have a "glow" to your face you didn't have before.
  • It can help scar tissue.
  • PS: It does remove dirt and oil!
Pretty impressive, right?

Although quality matters, you can still get some pretty impressive results with the low-brow stuff.

Honey ranges wildly in price and quality anywhere from the little honey bears at your average grocery store to manuka honey. I'd encourage you to at least spend a little extra to get raw and/or organic because it will last you quite a while and the cost over time is fairly low.

All the tutorials I've seen so far use plain honey, but I wanted to add another level of customization for different skin types.


If you want to try it plain, here's what you do:
  1. Spread up to 1 teaspoon over your dry face, massaging it in with your fingers. A very grainy honey may not be ideal unless you don't mind the extra friction. As your skin warms the honey, it will get easier to spread.
  2. Either let it sit for 30 minutes or more (more time to get those benefits to your skin), or rinse it off immediately with warm water.
  3. Pat dry with a towel.
  4. If some stickiness remains, just give it another splash of water.
I keep a little jar of honey in the bathroom and always wash my face this way in the morning.

I kept this tutorial simple by using stirred honey, so if you want to use a honey that's truly "creamed honey," you can follow this tutorial, but you'll need to buy a small amount of creamed honey to begin with.


Adding one or two special ingredients to the honey allows you to benefit your skin type even more:

Normal, aging, or sun-damaged skin: carrot seed essential oil + rosehip seed oil

Acne or scarred skin: helichrysum essential oil + rosehip seed oil* OR tamanu** oil

Normal skin: lavender essential oil + jojoba oil

Acne-prone skin: neem oil**

Aging or damaged skin: macadamia nut oil infused with chamomile or macadamia nut oil and chamomile essential oil

*Rosehip seed oil may exacerbate acne, so if your acne gets worse, you should switch to tamanu or neem oil.

**Although tamanu and neem oils are strong-smelling and may be hard to get used to, their benefits far outweigh the smell so please don't dismiss them! :)

If you usually have normal skin with the occasional breakout, I'd mix up a full batch of the face wash using the formula for normal skin. When you break out, you can mix up a dollop of plain honey with a few drops of neem or tamanu oil in your palm and use that until the breakout passes, then go back to using the formula for normal skin.




Jacked-Up Honey Face Wash
Yield: 1/2 cup


1/2 cup honey (raw and/or organic is best)
1 teaspoon base oil (such as rosehip seed or tamanu)
5-10 drops essential oil, optional (depending on your skin needs)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients with a spoon until thoroughly combined and honey lightens in color and becomes creamy in consistency.

Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature. If you're using essential oils, a glass container is best.

To use:
  1. Spread up to 1 teaspoon over your dry face, massaging it in with your fingers. A very grainy honey may not be ideal unless you don't mind the extra friction. As your skin warms the honey, it will get easier to spread.
  2. Either let it sit for an extended period of time (I usually aim for 30 minutes), or rinse it off immediately with warm water.
  3. Pat dry with a towel.
  4. If some stickiness remains, just give it another splash of water.
NOTE: If you simply stir the honey to combine the ingredients, some of the creaminess will go away over time, but it will still be thicker than your original honey. You can always give it another quick stir every so often if you want!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Infuse Herbs in Oil {Chamomile Infused Macadamia Nut Oil Recipe)



First things first: I've got to give a huge thanks to my friend Evelyn for fixing my link color woes. Now my links should be more visible! I've got a lot to learn in this arena...Sigh.

This is my first official recipe using foraged ingredients! Not that I'm promising many more, but it sure was exciting when I found chamomile growing near our house last summer (and that I figured out what it was).

When I dried it last summer, I assumed I'd be sipping chamomile tea all winter, but I kept forgetting about it. Now that it's warm again, hot beverages are slightly less appealing and I'm only vaguely interested in cold tea.

My solution? Infuse it! I knew chamomile was incredible for skin and since I didn't have the essential oil, I'd have to pull out the calming and anti-inflammatory benefits from my dried flowers.

Using a more neutral smelling oil will really allow the chamomile scent to shine, but I'd been looking for an excuse to use my macadamia oil for way too long. If you'd prefer to make a chamomile scented oil, use sweet almond or jojoba oil.

Of course you can always use this recipe as a guide to infuse almost any herb in almost oil you choose. Just be aware that if you are infusing a "harder" herb such as rosemary, you may want to chop it slightly before adding the oil.

I used the sunshine method to infuse the flowers, but if you're in a rush, you can gently warm the oil before adding it to the flowers and strain out the flowers after a few hours.

In my next post, I'll show you how I used part of this "sunshiny" oil!

Chamomile Infused Macadamia Nut Oil
Yield: varies


1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers, found in the wild, or bought online
Enough macadamia oil to cover flowers

Place dried chamomile in a small glass jar. Pour enough macadamia oil in the jar to cover the flowers, plus a little extra because some of the oil will be absorbed by the flowers.

Cover the jar. Place the jar in a sunny spot and shake it every day. Let it sit for 1-2 weeks.

Using several layers of cheesecloth, strain out the chamomile, squeezing out as much oil as you can and discard the flowers. Transfer the strained oil to a tightly covered jar.

Refrigeration should not be necessary.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moisturizing Protein Hair Mask for Naturally Curly Hair





As far back as I can remember, I've appreciated the fact that I have naturally curly hair, but I never could show anybody why. The bun was my signature style because wearing it down made me look like I was trying to hide under a teepee. Frizz was the dominant feature, but I never stopped liking it, despite all that.

I didn't really see how curly my hair actually was until last year when I discovered Curly Girl and learned that curly hair shouldn't be shampooed. Really! Before you dismiss this because you'd never want greasy hair, hear me out. Rather than drying and stripping your hair with shampoo, you use products that can be washed out with water (so no sulfates or silicones), and focus on moisture, moisture, and more moisture.

You still give yourself a nice scalp massage with a small amount of conditioner (or sulfate-free shampoo), which helps remove any build up and rinse out like shampoo before conditioning.

Aside from using my silicone-free conditioner, I do some sort of moisturizing or protein treatment once a week. When I don't want to start completely from scratch, I doctor up something store bought. This is my most recent concoction!




Moisturizing Protein Hair Mask
Yield: 1 mask

Shea Moisture Masque
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon honey

In a small bowl, add at least 1 tablespoon of Shea Moisture Masque (more for thick or long hair) together with the yolk and honey. Combine well with a small spoon until smooth.

Apply evenly to clean wet hair and cover with a shower cap for 30 minutes. Rinse out thoroughly and apply additional conditioner if necessary.

I usually follow with conditioner, but only need half the usual amount and a healthy blob of gel.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Eat Healthy on the Road



Living in Milwaukee puts us about an equal distance from both sides of our family. This means lots of road trips that are at least 7 hours. We travel plenty in the winter, but with summer coming up, we'll be hitting the road even more.

In the past, we've resorted to fast food because it's just that. Fast. But about 30 minutes after eating, we always felt a little groggy and tired. Probably not the best combination when you're got another couple of hours on the road to go. That means gas station coffee to stay awake...

I've also noticed that when we eat fast food, we tend to eat worse once we get where we're headed. Not being in control of the food is nice because it's more relaxing, but there's also more treats lying around.

The better we eat up to our arrival, the better chance we have of making good choices the rest of the trip. Whenever we eat gluten or sugar (our biggest triggers), we tend to jump down the rabbit hole and don't escape until we're back home, away from temptation.

And when eating gluten and sugar make you feel groggy and sinus-y, it doesn't make for the most enjoyable vacation.

A few months ago I decided I'd had enough (after a particularly rough weekend away) and was going to pack our food for our next trip.

I usually try to use up what's in the fridge so they don't go bad. If there are leftovers that are fine to eat when cold, I'll bring those, otherwise, my default is chicken salad. Any fruits or vegetables I can cut up and throw in a bag are quick and easy.

The return trip is usually a little trickier because you don't have your own fridge and pantry to raid. That's usually when we'll stop at a grocery store on the way out of town. Even the smallest grocery store will have healthier options than your favorite fast food joint.

The deli can be hit-or-miss, depending on the store, and we usually have better luck scouring the produce department and meat and cheese coolers.

Of course, a good cooler is essential. And don't forget silverware! I always have plastic in the car, so that's a great thing to keep in your glove box.

Trying to bring foods that are most similar to a "meal at home" is the best way to go. Think about a protein (chicken, salmon, eggs...), healthy fat (olives, fish, homemade ranch), as well as some finger foods (fruit and veggies). Don't forget things to drink! If you're used to mostly drinking water, it's completely fine to stick with that, but I like to bring at least one "fun" beverage such as kombucha or kefir.

Here's some easy ideas:

Chicken salad (eat with a fork or wrap in lettuce/cabbage leaves)
Salmon salad (served similar to chicken salad)
Egg salad -if you can handle the smell :)
Grass-fed, organic salami
Sardines (for the most adventurous)
Olives
Apples
Grapes
Berries
Carrot sticks
Celery
Grape tomatoes
Plain yogurt and berries
Grass-fed or raw cheese
Homemade ranch dip for veggies
Kombucha
Milk kefir
Water kefir
Lots of water
Ice*

*Not really for eating, but kind of important to keep things cold!

What about you? I'm sure some of you have even more experience than me! I'd love to hear what works for you!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cinnamon Latte Mask



Woo wee! It's been a while...I really have no valid excuse for being gone so long. Nothing crazy was going on. I was seriously home most of the time. I'm baffled.

Anyways...

If you've been following my blog for a while you may have noticed a shift towards healthier recipes and that looks like it's here to stay.

In the past, I've made delicious chocolate cakes that were fun to make and to eat, but sustaining that level of indulgence for me on a regular-enough basis for this blog isn't healthy for me. I feel my best when avoiding grains and sugar and loading up on healthy fats, vegetables, and proteins.

Along with the food I put in my body, I think about the quality of the products on my body. I can count the number of store bought products I have on one hand. That means there's a big hole to fill with homemade things.

As a mom, the ultimate in luxury, without leaving home, is relaxing in the evening with some kind of facial mask. And chocolate!




Cinnamon Latte Mask
Yield: 1 mask

1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
1/2 teaspoon bentonite clay 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Filtered water

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients and enough water to form a thin paste. You may want to start with 1 teaspoon and add additional 1/2 teaspoons until it reaches the correct consistency.

Allow the dry ingredients to absorb some of the liquid for 5 minutes before applying.

Apply to a clean dry face in very gentle circular motions and leave on for 30 minutes max. Rinse off with splashes of warm water. If you have very sensitive skin, you may need to wash it off earlier. This mask tends to tingle!

Your face will be quite red from increased circulation, but that will fade gradually within the next hour or so.

Follow with a moisturizer if your skin feels dry.