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Homemade scrubbing power!

I am about to admit something rather embarrassing. A few weeks ago I went to the dentist for the first time in over four years  awhile. I was terrified of cavities galore, chastisement from my hygenist and other scary things associated with regular dentist appointments. Instead, I was congratulated, my dentist remarked that I have wonderful teeth and said I must take great care of them. What do I thank? Homemade toothpaste, from a handful of simple pantry items.

Last summer I began on an adventure of eliminating toxics from my life in every place possible. Not only is it important to watch what goes into my body as nutrients, but what I use to clean my house and myself. As the flax seed hair gel already posted about, this toothpaste is a simple way we not only take control of what goes into our bodies, but we take control of who gets our dollars. Not to mention, based on the ingredients pictured above we have clearly taken a side on the fluoride debate.

We’ve been using homemade for almost a year, and whenever I use commercial toothpaste my taste buds are shocked at how sweet it is. Once I did some poking around I found out the sweetness comes from saccharin, an artificial sweetener which is petroleum based and, it has been argued since the 1970’s, a carcinogen. Making your own will allow you to choose where your dollars go (even Tom’s Of Maine, the forever heralded natural brand, is now owned by Colgate-Palmolive), what ingredients you do or do not put into your body, and- it costs pennies to make!

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Making toothpaste by the moonlight..

The recipe we use comes from another recipe from Diy Natural (have I mentioned that I love their website?).

Homemade Toothpaste:

You’ll need:

-container for mixing
– approximately 2/3 c. baking soda
-1.5 T salt
– water
-any extracts you may want to add

Step 1: Choose your container. We have found that anything shallow works well, but you’ll need a bit of a lip to be able to stir things up a bit when water separates from the baking soda from time to time. I had the yellow and white containers lying around that are pictured above, and they work well.  You want to make sure it will seal OK, as it is going to be hanging out in your bathroom. The width isn’t super important, as long as you can get your toothbrush head in there. We just happen to have really wide containers.

Step 2: Add baking soda to half-way fill your container. For us this is a little shy of 2/3 of a cup. This stuff won’t go bad, so if you’ve only got a hefty container-no worries. We go through 2/3 c. between the two of us in about 3-5 weeks, for reference. Once you get in the habit it takes a minute to whip up, and fresher is always better.

Step 3: Slowly add water, stirring as you do. You’ll need about 3/4 as much water as you did baking soda. You want it to be pasty, not liquid. It might dry out eventually, we often have to add more water once or twice, but for starters try to get a thick paste.

Step 4: Add salt to your liking. I think the salt gives more scrubbing power and really makes my teeth feel clean. We add 1.5 T of salt to ours (about 5.5 teaspoons!). If  you’re cautious about the salt, start adding 2-3 teaspoons and, after your first brush, adjust the ratio if you want more or less.

Step 5: We add a touch of peppermint extract when we’re feeling extravagant. I think we’ve gotten used to the flavor without any extract in it, but if  you’re just making the switch from commercial toothpaste you may be surprised by the taste of baking soda and salt! Try adding a little mint or other extract if you need something to cut the bitter baking soda. But be warned- a little extract goes a LONG way. Start with 1/8 of a t and adjust later (yes, 1/8!).

That’s it! We dip our brushes in and scoop some of the paste and scrub away!

Happy brushing.

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Flax Seeds Two Ways

April 9, 2012

What do vegetable fritters and hair gel have in common? In our house- flax seeds!

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We received a delicious box from Valley Green Feast on Friday full of beautiful produce, some locally milled and grown flour and Massachusetts cranberries. We’ve reached a tough point in the year for local foodies, spring hasn’t quite sprung and winter storage crops are running low. However, our box was full of some regional items, including a few summer squashes and some parsley. I had heard of squash fritters but never made them myself, convinced they needed to be half vegetable half egg in order to successfully bind together. A post over at My Garden Grows changed my mind with the brilliant use of ground flax seeds as the binding agent.

We used VGF parsley, squash and flour, and frozen peppers and corn from last summer. The fritters were fried up in coconut oil and were incredibly fresh and crisp tasting, making me look forward to spring and summer crops rolling in!

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Any vegan baker worth her salt knows the unbelievable gelling capabilities of those innocent little flax seeds. Not only do they work to bind fritters, they make a delicious addition to any dessert in need of an egg that won’t suffer from their slightly nutty, health-food taste. And, amazingly, flax seed gel makes a fantastic hair gel. I have been transitioning from using store-bought personal and cleaning supplies since last summer and have thus far ticked shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and toothpaste off my list. Laundry detergent and hand soap are up next.

Until recently, however, I was using apple cider vinegar to clean my hair, but relying on a bizarre, bright blue, store-bought hair gel to keep everything in place. I ran across flax seed hair gel when reading up on Diy Natural about homemade hairspray. My hair ranges from relatively curly on a good day to moderately wavy every other day, and is known to frizz in even the slightest humidity. The homemade hairspray recipe in the DIY Natural database didn’t quite pack the staying power I need from my hair products, but a reviewer left a comment referencing flax seed hair gel. My curiosity got the best of me, and I found a multitude of recipes using everything from pantyhose to cheesecloth, tea balls and sieves to separate the flax seeds from their gel.

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I’ve made this gel a few times now, following different instructions each time trying to determine which would work best for me. Here’s my current method, although I’m sure it will change slightly each time I make it. Let me know if you find a simpler or more effective way to make this product!

Homemade Flax Seed Hair Gel

You Will Need:
-1/4 c. flax seeds
-1.5 cups water
-small jar to hold gel
-fine mesh sieve
-bowl your sieve can sit in without touching the bottom (see set up above)
-small sauce pan to boil water in

Happy hair and happy spring.

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Projects

March 19, 2012

Spring break is here and our home is full of projects, although the majority of my time will be spent thesis writing, I am attempting to find time to catch up on some things I have been putting off and to start new projects that were put on hold until some free time came around.

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This one is technically M’s, he’s working on a batch of Ethiopian Honey Wine from Wild Fermentation. The water and honey mixture sat out in a wide-mouthed bowl for about a week to cultivate some wild yeast and now it is bottled in a half-gallon glass jar and topped with a one-way air lock. All those bubbles up top show that the yeasts are working hard and we’ll have a nice treat in a few weeks time.

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Another recipe from Wild Fermentation, this one is a mixture of sourdough starter, teff flour and whole wheat flour, making a slightly nontraditional injera batter. We’ll be making a lentil and pumpkin stew tomorrow night to share with friends and serve with this yummy Ethiopian flat bread after its 24-hour fermentation time.

These two aren’t food projects, but crafty home projects I’m hoping to get ahead on in upcoming weeks. This summer I have a graduation and a wedding to attend (in the same day, let’s not talk about what a crammed few hours that’ll be..) to both I plan to wear a dress made from this pattern. It looks pretty challenging as it will be the first item of clothing I’ve made from a pattern in several years, so I may end up making one for practice before the one I’ll wear to the events. This week I hope to pick up fabric to get the process rolling!

 

20120319-175119.jpg I fell in love with this scarf pattern when I found it, and also with the yarn, which is less of a neon orange that it appears in this picture. I started it over a year ago (embarrassing, I know) but it is the first project I have embarked on that includes cables and is the hardest knitting pattern I’ve ever attempted. I’m hoping to finish it for next fall, and I’m not letting myself start any new knitting projects until I finish one of the ones I am already invested in. There’s a whole list of socks and mittens I want to try my hands on, but for now, I’m finishing what I’ve started.

Wish me luck and productivity!

-W

Sunday Afternoons

February 26, 2012

I’m home alone for a few hours, a stack of work for the week ahead and yet, I can’t help but catch up a few projects I’ve been meaning to put into motion.

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Mustard may be the most used condiment in our house. We love it on just about everything from salad to roasted veggies to steamed greens. We had been buying the standard, Whole Foods-brand dijon and, although it is a fine mustard, I wanted the challenge of making something suited to our tastes. And- I love being able to cross off any item from our grocery list that doesn’t get processed by our own hands- even something as simple as mustard.

At M’s new job the kitchen makes a great, spicy mustard with horseradish. Since ours tends to be so all purpose, I decided to go for something a little softer. I adapted this recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

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Instead of using a seed grinder I used a technique borrowed from another mustard recipe that used only seeds and no powder. I soaked the brown mustard seeds over night in water equal to their own volume. This morning it was simple to spread them on a plate and crack the right amount with the back of a spoon. I wanted a fair amount of whole seeds, and the soaking had already started to release some mustard goodness which i could smell as soon as I poured them out. Aside from that, I followed the recipe to the T using mustard powder, apple cider vinegar and adding just a touch of honey, hoping for something very mildly sweet with a spicy edge. It needs to sit for about 12 hours before the flavors mellow, and I can’t wait!

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My second project was a breakfast of champions- some homemade granola! We have been buying granola in bulk at Whole Foods for about $4-$5 a pound, and this thrifty version cost us far less, with bulk oats running about $0.99 a pound.

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My ratio was adapted from an old recipe I’ve used and some others I found on line, ours is made of the following:

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts/seeds
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 c milled flax seed
2 T canola oil
1/4 c maple syrup
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon

I made a double batch, tossed everything but the flax and fruit together then baked for about 30 minutes at 350, tossing once and swapping the positions of my two trays so they browned evenly. Then I added the fruit and flax, let it cool and funneled it into glass jars for storage. My nuts were a combination of walnut pieces and sunflower seeds and the fruit were chopped, pitted, California dates.

I saw recipes using up to twice as much sweetener and twice as much dried fruit so, feel free to up the sugar content if it doesn’t meet your tastes- we tend to be a low sugar home around these parts. At the store many granolas have whey powder which, as a vegan, I don’t eat, or honey which, as a vegan, I don’t eat unless its from a local apiary. So making it ourselves opens up the options to craft it to suit our tastes and dietary desires!

If this recipe makes 6 servings- each one has 17 grams of sugar, 18 grams of fiber, 40% of your daily iron requirements, 13 grams of protein and 12% of your daily calcium. Not bad for a breakfast treat!

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And- the most exciting event of my morning was waking up to see this beautiful bubbly friend of mine. My sourdough starter took a little bit longer than Katz suggested but our space is about 10 degrees cooler than he recommends- we’re frugal! I am crossing my fingers that I can make delicious loaves in the next week or so. At this point my starter lives on  the counter and I feed it about a T of flour every day and stir it about twice a day. Once I start baking and it is stabilized it will live in the fridge and only get fed about once a week.

Happy Sunday!

Starting Something New

February 19, 2012

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What is this ghost like creature taking up residence on our kitchen table? A very exciting new creature indeed, friends! Beside the stacks of textbooks, the scribbled on outline for my thesis and an empty French press sits my brand new sourdough starter.

Following Sandor Elix Katz’s advice in his famed book, Wild Fermentation, I began trying to cultivate my own wild yeast to bake into delicious loaves of bread.

Any recipe for sourdough bread requires the addition of starter in place of some portion of the flour and liquid found in other bread recipes. Some starters can be made from bakers yeast, or bought from a company that specializes in producing starter to be regenerated in a home kitchen. Traditionally, however, starters are made by allowing whole grain flour and water to sit at room temperature and cultivate the wild yeast already found on the grains and in the surrounding environment.

Katz reminds his readers that bread was made in this way for hundreds of years before we even knew there were living organisms responsible for making our bread rise and for imparting that distinctly sourdough tang. I began my starter with locally grown and milled flour and tap water hoping to grow something totally unique to this environment.

I worry my apartment may be on the chillier side for yeast cultivation, but this morning, less than 48 hours after I began, I was greeted by tiny bubbles on the surface of my starter and a distinctly sour smell as the good organisms are competing for space with the bad microorganisms. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of my little guys!

If all goes according to direction I’ll have lovely loaves to post about this time next week. Fingers crossed!