Sunday, May 29, 2011

Manuka Honey

I don't remember where I actually first read about it, but I heard about this strange honey called Manuka Honey.  I believe the article I read actually stated that some hospitals use it in multiple ways to fight infections, such as MRSA, apply to burns, and in bandages.  When I read this, I thought, "What IS this stuff?" and I had to find out more.

A simple explanation is that Manuka Honey is the honey of bees that pollinate the Manuka Bush (aka...Leptospermum scoparium a small tree that is native to New Zealand.)  It is high in antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral etc, etc properties.

Here are some facts I have gathered simply by googling the honey.  You want to look for an active honey rated on the UMF scale.  The higher the rating, the higher the antibacterial qualities.  Manuka honey kills bacteria.  The osmotic pressure that comes from the honey (naturally occurring) removes the water from the bacteria.  Then they begin to shrivel and die.  Because of the nature of the honey it creates a natural barrier which germs such as bacteria can't pass.  A huge plus is that the sticky honey keeps bandages from sticking to a wound/blood.  Manuka is also an anti-inflammatory agent.  Manuka mixed with water turns its glucose into an active hydrogen peroxide that is a antibacterial powerhouse.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We cried "Uncle"

My dad came over one final time to try and get everything done before I was going to host my future sister-in-love's (stole that, but love it) shower.  On the agenda was the crown molding above the cabinets.  Now Dearest Husband hates mitering.  I can do it, but I was super nervous to attempt it on the wood we had bought.  It wasn't cheap and I didn't want to be the one to mess it up.

DH and my dad worked on the crown molding for over 8 hours and got no where.  A huge part of the issue was not having the exact right tools.  Finally they quit.

It was kind of depressing, but we talked and decided that it wasn't a huge deal to not have it done before the shower.  Family is loving and understanding.  Right?

Brian was talking with someone at work and the co-worker's sons are master carpenters.  HMMM, can you see where this is going?  Long story short, one of the sons came over and helped put it up!  WOO HOO!  And I have to mention, it was the day before the shower.  Now that is cutting it close.

Isn't God good?  Thank you God!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How I make Kombucha

 I have found Kombucha really, really easy to make.  The hard part is the waiting for it to be done.

What you need:
* 6-8 teabags (organic green, black, oolong tea)
* 1 gallon filtered water
* stainless steel pan
* 1 gallon-size glass jar
* 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup organic sugar (I prefer turbinado)
* 1 SCOBY (mushroom) 
* 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup prepared Kombucha
* tea towel with rubber band

Here are the basic steps:
1.) In a stainless steel pot, boil 1 gallon or less of filtered, pure water
2.) add 1 cup to 1&1/2 cup sugar and stir until it is dissolved
3.) add 6-8 teabags and let steep 10 minutes (covered)
4.) let the tea mixture cool to room temperature
5.) pour tea into a gallon glass jar 
5.) add the SCOBY (mushroom culture) smooth side up
6.) cover opening with a clean cloth and secure with rubber band
7.) let mixture sit at room temperature for 6-14 days, you can taste-test using a straw
8.) bottle and refrigerate

Not to hard, right?  Here are some pictures of my kombucha making process.

Some things to note:
1.) Don't touch the SCOBY with metal.
2.) Only use wooden spoon or glass spoons for stirring.
3.) When you bottle your Kombucha, make sure to set aside 1 cup of kombucha and your SCOBY in a glass bowl for the next batch.
4.) You can store a SCOBY in the fridge while not in use.
5.) Your  SCOBY should make a baby every time you brew, however, after refrigeration, it might take a few brews to reproduce.
6.) I use Ikea glass bottles with a seal.  I like my Kombucha fizzy, these bottles help.
7.) When you bottle your Kombucha, you can add up to 5% of a flavor.  I like to use fresh squeezed lemons.  I add the pulp too!  Use any juice that is 100% juice with nothing (not even malic or citric acid) added.  
8.) If you add a flavor, let the bottles sit out at room temperature for 2 days for a second ferment, then refrigerate.
9.) Please, remember to start drinking this in small amounts.  It has wonderful properties, but your body does need to adjust. If you have questions on this let me know.
10.) Clean your tools and hands with vinegar.  Do not use antibacterial soap especially.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here Comes the Bride

Although it happened about 3 weeks ago, I would like to share pictures of my sister-in-love's shower.  She is so dear to me and I hope she enjoyed it!

Together, my two sisters and I planned the event.  I got the job of cake, salad, and oh yeah, finishing my kitchen.  For the most part, the kitchen was done.  The cupcakes were ok.  The salad was great! (thanks to Miss K. whose recipes I freely steal and use!  Thanks!)

Our "theme" was spring-ish in nature.  Spring colors.  Spring flowers.  You get the idea.  We had the family bring recipes to share.  Our one and only game was to make a wedding dress... out of toliet paper.  It was a BLAST!

Here are the photos.  Enjoy.  We sure did!

sisters (I look deceivingly tall.  I am really much shorter~like this photo HA!)

All the aunties

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

My wonderful, sensitive, caring baby boy is now 11!  Yikes!  How did that happen?  Some of the things I enjoy and love about him are how he is so gentle and kind with little kids, he LOVES to read (just like me!), he is funny, empathic and just an all around great kid. 

When he turned 1, I made him a xylophone cake because he so deeply loved music.  Thus began a tradition of me making his cakes.  I have made Elmo, Scooby Doo, a Wild hockey cake, Dinosaurs, Peter Pan, Gettysburg, Mario Brothers, and many more.  This year's theme was a Spartan/Greek warrior.

Due to food allergies, I have had to modify the recipes I normally use.  I now use a Bob's Red Mill Chocolate Cake mix.  I changed ingredients and amounts of ingredients in the frosting.  Since I know many people are struggling with this I thought I'd share my recipe in the birthday boy's honor.

 Icing Recipe
1 cup Spectrum Palm Shortening
1 cup Earth Balance Soy Free Butter (dairy free)
8 cups 365 Whole Foods Powdered Sugar (corn free)
Coconut Milk as needed to smooth frosting to the desired consistency (about 2-6 TBSP)
4 tsp. Frontier Vanilla
1/2 teaspoon McCormick cream of tartar (my secret ingredient)

Now, I am a terrible recipe follower.  I tend to throw stuff together and just blend it up.  But, in this recipe, I find creaming the shortening and butter together first are a not to skip step.  I then usually add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla, then the cream of tartar.  The milk is the last step.  Don't use too much or you will get soup.  To avoid putting to much milk in, I put a bit in a glass and spoon it in a little at time.  I learned the hard way NOT to pour from the container.  Yup, I have made soup out of frosting.  If the frosting is too butter rich for you, add more powdered sugar.  Since the powdered sugar has tapioca starch in place of the corn starch, it tends to get hard little balls in it.  I have learned that after you mix it all really well, let it sit 5-10 minutes, the mix again.  You can over mix this and then it get all separated and funny like (it will still taste fine).  I scoop a little bit out at a time into a separate bowl and make my colors.  A good corn free and allergen safe brand is Seelecttea's Natural food coloring .  Here are some picture for you to enjoy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

WHAT ON EARTH is this wierd stuff called kombucha???

I have found this super yummy drink.  KOMBUCHA.  It is slightly fizzy, smells vinegary, and has awesome health benefits.  Its basic components are organic green or black tea, organic sugar and fermenting them with a kombucha culture.  Through trying different types I have found which ones I like and don't like.

But what I really don't like is the price!  Yikes!  Anywhere from $3.50 to $4.50 a bottle.  I was treating myself to it instead of coffee and only when feeling run down.  I have been seeing a lot of posts on making it and I finally decided to try to make it myself. 

Kombucha and your health:
One of the necessary items needed to make it is a SCOBY/kombucha culture; which basically is a large mushroom.  SCOBY stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts."  The SCOBY can best be described as a large pancake.  It will often take on the color of the tea you use.  Some of the great health things that may be in the kombucha are B vitamins, vitamin C, organic acids lik glucuronic, gluconic, lactic, usnic, malic acids; there are even amino acids and enzymes in there.  Acetic acid, which is mildly antibacterial can be found in there too.  My favorite benefit is that there are probiotics in there!  Woo hoo! Which we all need!

A really cool thing about this yummy, fizzy bowl of health is that the SCOBY reproduces.  You can keep the baby and start a second batch, or give it away to friends to share the wealth of health benefits.

Teas to use:
 Most types of teas are ok.  Do use organic.  Green, black, white, and oolong will all provide a wide variety of taste.  I have been using green and like it.  Avoid teas with oils in them like Earl Grey and herbal teas.  My favorite sugar to use is Turbinado sugar.

Some important things to note:

I have read that it is recommended recovering alcoholics do not drink this.  While the fermenting tea and yeast do produce alcohol, the good stuff (bacteria) turn the alcohol into the even better stuff (organic acids), BUT the taste can be somewhat tempting.  I think the measured amount of alcohol is often around the 1% or less range.

For beginners, you can measure the PH of your kombucha to make sure it is brewing properly.  The goal is to end around 3.  The range can be 2.5 to 4.  You can buy a pack of PH strips to test it.  DO NOT dip the strips in to the brew, but use a straw to remove the liquid and drop onto the testing strip.  Do not touch the SCOBY with metal, plastic etc.

I will post soon on making KOMBUCHA. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Odds and Ends

Some more finishing touches:

We are recovering the chairs.  It was SOOOOOOO much cheaper then buying new one.  The fabric was on sale for $10 a yard (regularly $19.99). 

Here is before:

Here is after:

I also sewed my first curtian (and without a pattern).  My dear, dear friend Miss K. came over to help.  She got me started and I finished up on my own.  I even constructed the rod from leftover wood from the cabinets and hung it!  Again, surprising DH.

Here it is!


For around $100 bucks, I recovered 8 chairs, and sewed one very long curtian.  Not to shabby.  Especially considering that the special order door for the pantry space alone was quoted at $374 dollars!  YIKES!

Our sweet cat loves the fabric too.  An added bonus.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I am so FruSTraTeD!!!!

I have a new favorite drink, KOMBUCHA!  Due to the high costs of buying it from the store, I am learning to make it on my own.  It basically is a fermented sweetened tea.  I will post later on making it.

But let's get to the frustrated part.  Tea.  I needed to buy just plain old green or black tea.  When you think of tea, what do you think is in it?  Tea leaves?  Right? No, wrong!!!!!  I went grocery store (actually three, that's how many I go to, to find what we need due to allergies~ but I digress) and almost all teas, even organic had MSG or soy or something added.  *** note: natural flavors almost always means MSG on a food label.

Why, oh, why???

I am frustrated, irate, and confused as to why tea needs these ingredients?  Even organic?  We avoid soy (it is almost all GMO and is not good for boys~I could write a post on this, but believe me, its not good stuff)  We avoid MSG~nasty stuff!!!!  Ugg!

Anyone know of a good organic tea with out additives?

SIGH, sigh, sigh.

Essential oil tips

A good friend and I were chatting at church while doing childcare.  Her little ones had been playing outside all day since spring had finally arrived; I noticed they were a little pink cheeked.  She asked me what I do for sunburn since she knows I prefer to use natural remedies and essential oils.  I told her my favorite thing for burns of all types is lavender.  I use Young Living brand essential oils

I love lavender for burns.  Once, while cooking, I was heating oil to brown chicken and I sloshed it over one of my hands.  Thank goodness it was winter!  I grabbed a baggie full of snow and plopped that on my hand.  In between changing bags of snow (it works great because it forms to your burnt body part's shape, unlike ice) I applied lavender.  It should have blistered and left a scar, but it never blistered and never scarred.  Love lavender (did I say that already?)

Some of my other favorites are:

Lavender: burns, bruises, put on feet to help respiratory (colds etc)
Lemon: bug bites (takes the itch out of mosquito bites), put on feet to help respiratory system
Thieves: helps to fight off illness, I dilute it in a carrier oil and rub it on my lympnods
Oregano: digestive, detoxification
Peppermint: eases headaches, tight muscles, increases concentration, careful it can burn skin if put on undiluted
Ginger: upset stomach
Melaluca (aka tea tree oil): antiseptic, use in place of neosporin
Food grade hydrogen peroxide: it is recommended to dilute it for various needs.  Diluted I use it as a face cleanser, wound cleasning.  Undiluted, it will burn your skin.  Add 1 cup to a bath.  I will post more on this later.

What are your favorite oils?  How do you use them?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fun Odds and Ends

We had to add a new light for over the kitchen table.

We also added wider molding.

I cut a piece of trim to go over the sink.

We are gettting closer and closer to being done.  I can't wait!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What time is it? TILE TIME

My DH has been working so hard, I decided to attempt installing the tile on my own.  I had to master a tile V-notched trowel, a float, tile adhesive, and a wetsaw.

Here are some photos.  I feel pretty good about how it turned out for my first time tiling.  Oh, and by the way, my DH was super surprised.  But later, he did help me grout.

Here we are grouting

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The sweet smell of Vinegar

Vinegar.  I am in love with vinegar.  There, I said it. 

It is my staple, that I could NOT do with out.

So as not to be wordy (which I can TOTALLY be)  here are my uses for vinegar:

Cleaning spray (fill a spray bottle with half water, half vinegar, you can add essential oils for a scent)
Dishwasher rinsing agent (just add where you would put your jet dry etc.)
Fabric Softener (I add a bit in my beach dispenser and fabric softener dispenser)
Mildew smell in clothing (soak in hot water with a couple cups of vinegar, rinse and wash)
Toliet cleaner
Air freshener (see cleaning spray)
Disinfectent (spray cleaning spray, let sit)
Soap scum (spray shower down with cleaning spray after every shower)
Sinks (before bed fill with hot water, add 2-3 cups of vinegar, let sit overnight, rinse and wipe out in the morning)
Stainless Steel pans or coffee pots (bring water to a boil, add vinegar, let sit over night)
Carpet cleaner (use in place of commerical cleaner when using  a carpet cleaner)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Learning as I go....

Ok, so this is all new.  I am trying to add to my Blog List/roll call and can only add a couple sites.  Any suggestions as to why?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Terriffic Taco Seasoning

Two of my sweet boys have mulitiple food allergies and because of this most of our cooking is from scratch.  I read somewhere a recipe for a taco seasoning.  I have tweaked it for our family's taste and I make a HUGE batch because we have tacos or nachos once a week, it seems like. 

As an added note, I only use Trader Joe's spices and McCormick Spices that are additive free.  Most are gluten free.  Always double check before using.  I also prefer seasalt over table salt.  Flavor is better and you get wonderful minerals from the salts.  For a jar, I simply reused a glass dressing jar.

Add to a clean glass jar:

 4 TBSP onion powder
2 TBSP Chili powder
1 TBSP crushed red peppers
1/2 TBSP dried oregano
2 TBSP sea salt
1 TBSP tapioca starch
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP ground cumin

All the ingredients assembled.


All shaken up!!!!