Home Spa – DIY Style

Because I enjoy seeing just exactly how close I can come to giving myself an anxiety attack, I waited one week until Christmas to make my gifts for everyone. And in my brilliance, I decided to make not just one, but FOUR gifts per person for a home spa kit. …my friends better love me.

In my frenzy, I turned the kitchen in to what resembled an apothecary of sorts run by none other than the Tasmanian Devil – you know, the cartoon character that spins around and turns everything in to shambles and disarray. My very patient roommates did their best to turn a blind eye to the  disaster area that used to be the kitchen until I was finished. Not an easy thing to do.

With the exception of maybe one or two ingredients, everything I used to make my products was natural and organic. And I made them barefoot. With bell bottoms, flowers in my hair, and ‘groovy’ on the tip of my tongue the entire time. Jk. Mostly…

In each spa kit, I included: homemade lip balm, whipped body butter, bath salts, and a sugar scrub.

Peppermint/Rosemary Lip Dressing: For the lip balm, I used the same recipe and procedure as my Lip Dressing that I have made previously. For whatever reason, this batch turned out much better than the first. It yielded 38 tubes of chapstick, which means plenty left over for yours truly. Or you, if you’d like.

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub: Next, I made the sugar scrub. I found my inspiration for the scrub here. I liked that it had limited ingredients and was very easy to make….if you follow the directions right. Unlike I did. It essentially takes only two ingredients: sugar and almond oil. Pretty straightforward. About two cups of sugar to 1/4-1/3 cup of almond oil. Unless you misread the instructions and haphazardly use 1 1/3 cups of almond oil. Then it takes a WHOLE lotta sugar to make up the consistency. You want the mixture to be soft but not too oily. -I have never before used a sugar scrub and was constantly asking my roommates if my mixture looked or seemed right-

Sugar scrub ingredientsCombining almond oil with sugarSugar and almond oil mixture

If you want to stop there, you can! I can’t ever make anything easy, so I decided to add essential oils for scent and color for effect. I went with orange for the scent, because I figured it would be different and fun. I then divided the sugar into two bowls, one of which I dyed orange.

Plain and orange sugar scrub Orange Sugar Scrub

In small containers, I layered the colors. I gently padded down each layer with the bottom of a shot glass, because I’m innovative. The final product turned out a little something like this:

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub

Whipped Body Butter: The body butter was probably the most ‘labor-intensive’ process out of everything. That being said, it still wasn’t that hard. And I asked all of my giftees what scent they would like so that I could customize it for them. I found the original recipe for it here. I made a few small adjustments, but followed it for the most part. You essentially need 2 cups total of grease/oil, but I doubled the recipe. I used what I had: 2 cups shea butter, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup almond oil. I added the essential oils after for scent depending on what people wanted. I did not color/dye any of the lotion, but that is an option as well (just be cautious of staining skin….or don’t if that’s what you’re going after).

Shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil

Using a double boiler – or one you make yourself from a pot and a glass bowl, melt all the ingredients together, stirring constantly. Let it cool for a few minutes on the counter and then put in the refrigerator until it’s firm, but not solid. Mine took about 2.5 hours to cool.

Butter and oil on double burnerMelted butter and oils

Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter at a high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fluffy. Add your essential oils for scent. Or, if you’re making several different scents, divide into separate containers and whip personalized oils in.

Whipping the Body ButterWhipping the Body ButterWhipped Body Butter

Spoon body butter into containers without packing down or spreading out. This keeps the ‘whipped’ illusion.

Whipped Body Butter

I kept one for myself, and let me tell you, it feels absolutely AMAZING. It’s a little heavy, so I put it on right before bed. The body butter is extremely nourishing and makes my skin very soft. I will definitely be making this bad boy again.

Aromatic Bath Salts: This was by far the easiest thing to make. I found several ‘recipes’ online, but ultimately went with my own. I combined 3 parts Epsom salt with 2 parts sea salt and 1 part baking soda. The baking soda is a skin softener. I added essential oils for scent – lavender and tea tree oil. Put everything into a big mixing bowl, and, well, mix! Like magic, you have aromatic bath salts. So easy, and people are SUPER impressed.

Aromatic Bath SaltsAromatic Bath Salts

 

If you have the time, you can make labels for everything. I was pretty pressed, so I simply included a note with the gift explaining what each jar contained. The entire gift-making process was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and everything turned out better than I thought it would. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with me that’s pretty inevitable.

Home Spa Kit

Last year, I crocheted everyone infinity scarves. This year, home spa kits.

Next year….gift certificates. 😉

‘Tis The Season (Of Gifting)

I LOVE giving people gifts. I’ve always prided myself as a pretty creative gifter. Maybe that’s because I pay attention to people more than most others do….well that sounds a little creepy.

Last year, I crocheted 7 infinity scarves for my close friends and family, each tailored with their favorite color. This allowed me to watch horribly-entertaining shows on Netflix for hours on end. And I wanted to set fire to all of my yarn only a few times! Success. (Minus the fact that one of my good friends turned out to be allergic to the baby alpaca yarn I made her scarf with and ended up with a lovely red rash around her neck…sorry, Laura) To make all of these, I started back in October.

This year, 4 days until Christmas, and I haven’t even started my gift-making-extravaganza yet.

I’m so screwed. :/

For the next few days, I will be feverishly working on gift baskets, which will include homemade chapstick, whipped body butter, relaxing bath salts and invigorating sugar scrubs.

I have very few of the ingredients I need for all of this, so additionally I will have to brave the psycho-crazy-last-minute shoppers. And I will be one of them.

There are a few gifts that I have completed so far, however.

This year, I decided to let the gift keep on giving even after Christmas: potted paperwhite lilies that will bloom (hopefully) sometime in January.

It was very easy to do, and fairly cheap for as many as I made. All you need are paperwhite lily bulbs, potting soil and a flower pot really. If you want to fancy-it-up you can wrap the pots with ribbon, or even decorate them. You can also top the potting soil with decorative shells or beads of different colors.

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I put 3 bulbs to a flower pot. You can do less, or more if the pots are bigger. I wrapped the flower pots with ribbon and included some fun shells and beads on top of the soil. Instead of decorating the pots, I’m going to write the names of the people I’m giving them to on the pot with chalk. The chalk will eventually come off, or can be washed off, and they can reuse the pot for flowers in the summer if they wish.

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The lilies need watered about every 3 days. Unfortunately, they will only bloom once. (Which is actually fine with me. I’m surprised I haven’t killed all of them off already.)

Although I thought this was a fun idea, one remark I got was: ‘You made a gift for someone to finish doing all the work on…’ Ya, well, I figured they needed a new hobby as well. I’m thoughtful like that dammit.

Another gift idea I had involves booze. ….no one is shocked….

One of my roommates is really in to beer. She loves everything about it, especially trying new ones. So, in a bout of cleverness, I decided to give her the 12 Beers of Christmas.

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I bought 12 different singles and wrapped each of them with white paper, writing the number order in which to drink the beers. One a day for 12 days, with the last one to be opened Christmas Eve. Each one I bought was a special seasonal, and no two were from the same brewery, including the bomber I bought for Day 12. I finished off each one with a festive ribbon, which I successfully curled without ruining it. And then I wrote a poem to accompany them.

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Go me.

As for the rest of my brilliant Christmas gift ideas….well, they may turn out to be New Year gifts instead. What better way to ring in the New Year than with a present?! Maybe that was my plan all along.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Remember me? Ya…I’m not sure if I would either. I’ve been neglectful, unreliable and seemingly nonexistent for a while.

“I’m sorry” can only go so far. And actions speak louder than words.

As a way to beg for forgiveness, I have made you something special!!! …well actually I’ve made a group of strangers at an upcoming holiday cookie exchange something special…

Side note: I’ve never been to – or heard of – a cookie exchange, but I’m pretty sure it’s just another excuse to sit around and drink wine, which is fine by me. No one really cares about the cookies – they’re just going to give them away anyway. 

BUT I’ve included the recipe and lovely pictures to accessorize it.

So, what do you say? Friends again?

Did I mention bacon AND chocolate are included?

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….I knew that would do the trick.

I bring you a little piece of heaven on earth in the form of Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cookies! Yep, I made it happen. Just for you!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (1 & 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease….that’s the good stuff
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I always add a little extra)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 & 1/4 cup flour – or you can use rice flour to make it gluten free, which is actually what I did with this recipe
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 8-10 ounces of bacon…or until you feel satisfied there’s enough in there

Step 1: cook the bacon. No one wants raw, chewy bacon with their chocolate….

Step 2: save your bacon grease and let it cool until it’s completely solid

~Turn on the oven to 375°F~

Step 3: mix softened butter, bacon grease and sugars together until fluffy/creamy

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Step 4: add in eggs and baking powder and blend well

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Step 5: add vanilla and cinnamon

Step 6: stir in bacon and chocolate chips

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Steps 7-10: taste test the dough…for obvious reasons – check for poisons, determine quality, ensure bacon to chocolate chip ratio is satisfactory. You’re also doing yourself a favor and saving time making that one (or two) extra cookies. This of course is all a go unless you have issues with raw egg in your dough…in which case you can save the taste testing for me. I’m happy to help.

Roll dough into small balls (insert appropriately inappropriate comment here) and place on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake between 8 and 10 minutes. (Mine took closer to 10) Do NOT forget to turn your oven timer on….although burnt bacon cookies do make the house smell nice.

Makes about 4 dozen smoky, sweet cookies. Bacon really does make everything better. I may try to add peanut butter to them next time.

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Genius? I’ll take it . Isn’t it nice to know that (queue music) “You’ve got a friend in me…”

Sometimes the sweetest things in life take a little elbow bacon grease.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

*This post was inspired by:  http://foodfunlife.blogspot.com/2013/02/bacon-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

 

I Can Can. Can You?

You know all those veggies in the previous post? Well they have to go somewhere, right? Mostly, they’re going to my stomach, which is super happy about that, but one person can only eat so many veggies…

Besides being frozen, dehydrated, put in recipes, given to the dog as treats, and given away, I have taught myself (with much help from others and from a step-by-step book) the art of canning.

My Mom and I actually went in on this project together. We acquired all of the supplies (minus a pressure cooker) and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I read and learned…and then still asked for help because I am a disaster in the kitchen when it comes to cooking or preparing food at all.

For our first trick, we turned cucumbers into dill pickles. This actually was not that difficult to do. We went with a kosher pickle recipe and added a few things to it. All the ingredients, minus the spices, were from local farmer’s markets. The cucumbers were from my own garden.

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Washing off the cucumbers

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Fresh dill from the farmer's market

Fresh dill from the farmer’s market

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Klondike helped

Klondike helped

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

In they go

In they go

The final product

The final product

Mmmmm pickles

Mmmmm pickles

We ended up making 8 pints of pickles, which will be ready to open NEXT WEEK!!! I’m very excited to try them and see how they turn out!

In a frenzy of pickling excitement, we also made zucchini relish!! All of the zucchinis were from my garden.

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Chopped bell peppers, onion, and shredded zucchini

The spices

The spices

Ingredients

Ingredients

Toss everything in together

Toss everything in together

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Simmer

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

End of Summer BBQ anyone??

Canning is actually easier than I thought it would be….but I also haven’t done anything extremely difficult. I can still cross this off of my Summer Bucket List as my new learned skill.

*Pats self on back*

 

Comida de Gringa

Hola amigos. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! ¿Qué estás comiendo hoy (además de cerveza y tequila – yo sé que son importantes)? Hoy en día es uno de mis días favoritos para comer y beber. ¿Qué persona no ama buena comida mexicana? De verdad.

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On this lovely Cinco de Mayo (that’s the 5th of May), I thought I’d share some of my favorite family Mexican recipes. I confess, I have not personally made all of them, but I have tasted all of them, so I’m going to say that’s good enough for now.

Growing up, a staple food of Mexican-inspired goodness was green chilie. This recipe was one my Grandma came up with and passed down to my Mom, who unsuccessfully has tried to pass it on down to me. I say unsuccessfully because she has given it to me several times, but I have yet to even think about attempting it. This vat of deliciousness has been smothered on burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and even been eaten plain. By me. It has the perfect balance of flavors and is a great addition to just about any Mexican dish. Or by itself. The catch? This green chili is not green – it’s more reddish in color. Surprise!

Green Chilie

2 tbs oil                             2-3lbs cubed pork
1 large onion, diced        1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp salt                            1/2 tsp pepper

Brown all of the above in a large pot, just until the pork is no longer pink.

Add the following:

2 28oz cans diced tomatoes                   2 28oz cans water
4 4oz cans mild diced green chilies      2 tbs cumin
1/3 of a 4oz can of diced jalapenos       1-1.5 tbs chilie powder

Simmer for a couple of hours, occasionally stirring to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Smother on top of homemade burritos. ¡Qué rico!

Mexican Lasagna

12 corn tortillas                                 1 can (14 or 16oz) tomato sauce
1 med onion, chopped                     4oz diced green chilies
1 cup salsa or picante sauce            1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp chilie powder                           2 eggs, slightly beaten
1lb ground beef                                 1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1/2lb grated cheddar cheese  (or more if you prefer)
1/2lb ricotta cheese (can substitute with 1 cup cottage cheese)
1 can 16oz red kidney beans, drained
1 can 8oz whole kernel corn, drained

Preheat oven to 35o

Saute ground beef in a skillet with onion and garlic until beef is fully cooked. You could use ground turkey in place of beef. Add tomato sauce, salsa, green chilies, chilie powder, cumin, corn, and kidney beans. I also add some diced jalapenos. Stir to mix and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, and oregano.

Arrange 6 tortillas on bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 9″ by 13″ deep-sided baking pan, overlapping as needed. Add about 1/2 of the meat mixture. Spoon egg and cheese mixture on top of meat sauce and add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese. Add a second layer of tortillas and repeat layering ingredients until you run out. (I usually do 6 tortillas on the bottom, 4 in the middle, and 2 on top followed by the last little bit of what I have left to layer)

Finish with a garnish on top if you want. I like cilantro and sliced avocado.

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

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Mexican Lasagna

Chicken Tortilla Soup

For an amazing Chicken Tortilla Soup, check out this recipe. I don’t use the roasted poblano peppers, but instead add 2 diced fresh jalapenos and 2 cans of green chilies (mild). Additionally, I add a small bag of frozen corn, and 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans. I would also add more tomato than it calls for and a little more salt. I personally stir guacamole in to my own bowl, but you can use sour cream as well. Top with cheese. Makes my tastebuds want to Salsa.

And of course you can’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo without some killer margaritas. This is my FAVORITE margarita recipe. Again, from my Grandma. Very simple. Very strong. Very perfect.

Killer Margaritas

1 cup Tequila (I personally use silver tequila – I prefer it over gold)
1/2 cup Triple Sec
2 cups Sweet & Sour Mix (I do 1.5 cups)

Put in blender with ice till foamy.

If you want, you can choose to dip your glass in Sweet & Sour then in salt…serve with a wedge of lime and enjoy!

¡FELICITACIONES! You are now fully prepared for a proper Cinco de Mayo! If you make any of these recipes, let me know how they turn out! Oh, and no skimping on the guacamole…that should be homemade too.

¡BUEN PROVECHO!

Banana-Breaded Bliss

There’s nothing that hits the spot quite like warm banana bread fresh out of the oven on a chilly-and-waiting-for-snow-on-the-last-day-of-April-even-though-it-was-70°+-yesterday-because-Colorado-has-multiple-personality-disorder day.

Growing up, my Mom made banana bread often, and there was never much of it leftover. Because I can’t summons my Mom to make me whatever I want at my beck and call, which is a huge bummer, I have got to be the banana bread queen now.

I can honestly say that before today, I have never before made banana bread. Yay for turning over a new leaf! Or banana peel.

I didn’t have my Mom’s banana bread recipe at the time, which is also my Grandma’s, so I found a different one to use:

Shrinking Kitchen’s Best Ever Banana Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes             Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 12 slices/loaf                   Serving Size: 1 slice

Best-Ever Banana Bread {vegan-friendly, too!}

Gather

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp margarine {I used vegan spread}
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 over-ripe bananas
1/4 cup non-dairy milk {I used almond milk}
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Step by step

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease loaf pan w/cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl {i just throw everything in my stand mixer}, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In another bowl, cream together margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, bananas, vanilla, milk and cider.
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  6. Pour batter in your loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and cool.
  8. Notes: I used my Kitchen-Aid mixer and simply added in all the ingredients as they are listed above. One bowl. Less clean-up. Delicious. WIN.

I altered a few things with this recipe. I didn’t have regular white sugar so I used coconut palm sugar. I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of 1 cup of white flour. I also added sunflower seeds to mine, too.

I highly suggest that, unlike myself, you have or purchase a mixer – smashing bananas and ‘creaming’ ingredients together by hand is hard. I most definitely think I got my arm workout in for the day.

While this recipe is delicious, my roots tie me to the family recipe.

Directly copied and pasted from my email, here it is.

Banana Bread from Grandma Judy

3-4 ripe bananas
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. oil  (not olive oil)
2 eggs
2 Tbs. sour milk  (put in cup and add a little white vinegar; this makes it sour)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix brown sugar, white sugar and oil in bowl with mixer.  Add eggs and
sour milk and mix really well. Add bananas and mix really well. Add salt,
soda and flour and mix really well. Add walnuts and mix really well.

Use cooking spray in loaf pans and coat with flour.  Discard
any extra flour.  Pour in batter to about half full.  This will make 1
large loaf or 2 medium or 4 small loaves.

For a large loaf bake for about 55 minutes
For medium bake for about 50 minutes
For small bake for about 45 minutes

Check for the crack along the top and no “gooey” and golden brown.

Enjoy!

There are a ton of recipes out there. Do you have a family or favorite one? I’d love to try it out.

It’s good hot, cold, toasted, with butter, with peanut butter, with chocolate chips, with blueberries, plain, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for a snack….you get the idea.

And that’s my banana-breaded bliss. Perfect for a freak winter storm warning on the last day of April.

Playing With Needles

So. I’ve been a slacker. A big one. BUT that’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. In fact, for the past 4 weeks I have been learning a skill that will take me far in life. It has been tough, grueling, and time-consuming. Many will attempt, but few will find the will power to carry on and succeed. With the help of lessons and a guru, I have been able to create a piece of art with my newly attained talent.

Watch out, world! I’m learning to knit!

I bought my Mom and I knitting classes for Christmas and we’ve been on the journey to become knitting fiends! We’ve been going to Your Daily Fiber, where Ivy, our instructor, has been incessantly patient with us. After 4 weeks, and many many MANY mistakes -and an impressive vocabulary of colorful words directed at the yarn and knitting needles-, I have finished my first project. My new work of art will be displayed for all to see…on my head. I made a beanie! Colorado has been so accommodating during this time by providing cold temperatures and several Spring snowstorms so that I might be able to actually wear it before we reach scorching Summer temps -in which case I will STILL wear it.

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AND it’s bright orange, which makes it that much better.

Diving into the knitting world, you have to learn not only a new language with your hands -how to hold the needles, what to do with the yarn, how to determine when you’ve dropped a stitch, how to refrain from giving your project the middle finger-, but also a new vocabulary. Purl, knit, turn, block, finish, sock stitch, rib, cast on, etc. I’m slowly catching on to these and am able to sometimes use them correctly so I don’t sound quite as moronic to our knitting instructor -who is amazing by the way…and did I mention very patient?-.

I don’t know how to read patterns yet, so I just did what Ivy told me, which worked out pretty well for the most part. For this project, and for my particular stitches, I cast on 80, knit 1 purl 1 for 2 inches, knit in the round for 6 inches, knit 8 stitch 2 together for 1 row, knit one row, knit 7 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row, knit 6 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row….all the way down. Finish by sewing the top stitches together and bringing them through the top of the hat (I know what I’m trying to say, but not really sure how to say it. Obviously.). Sew in your yarn tails.

If that made any sense to you, you are a knitting professional, because I just re-read it and it looks like gibberish.

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For my first project, I think it turned out pretty well. Because I’m still very new to this, I think I’m going to sign up for more classes so that I can learn to read a pattern, and hopefully learn to fix mistakes myself without completely crumbling and having a mild panic attack every time I drop a stitch.

Although Summer is fast-approaching, you will be able to pick me out of a crowd. I’ll be the one in a tank top, shorts, sandals, and a bright orange beanie.

And maybe socks, if I make those next.

Project suggestions are welcome! I’ve already been encouraged to try my hand at knitted underwear…..