Sunday, October 27, 2013

Praise Products That Are Built with Science (or in the Kitchen)

“How was it?”
“Ehhh” (the universal noise someone makes when they are stalling’s for a polite answer that doesn't give away too much disappointment).
“Well… it was only as good as water.” My husband was talking about the homemade ‘shave butter’ I crafted with honey and coconut oil once we ran out of the good stuff*.

There are few particular instances when I get crafty with natural products:  the downtime between purchases (a quick replacement until I can get to the store), the result of research, and when the spirit moves me into creating something that doesn't yet exist in real stores. The point is that some things in the better than science natural category truly work, and some are just crap. This article is about the crappy ones so that you, dear reader, do not succumb to wasting time or precious ingredients on these things.

Body Lotion. Body lotion is tricky. I am allergic to a lot of ingredients, and have tried Crisco, coconut oil, cocoa butter, Shea butter, Vaseline, and a combination of these things together. If you’re not picky, then any of these will keep your skin hydrated after a shower, however, sheets and clothes will absorb the oil smell from whatever you choose and you also get the benefit of being a delicious snack-lick for pets.
Toothpaste. I made toothpaste from castile soap, coconut oil, and some eucalyptus essential oil (since I didn't have any mint). I’m saving this recipe for when I go “off the grid” and can no longer go into supermarkets. Seriously, if you’re in a pinch, the high school sleepover trick of using floss and mouthwash is a much better option if you’re going to be in the company of other human beings.
Foot Powder. Baking soda for foot powder. I was borrowing the idea of baking soda making your fridge smell better here, but my shoes became personal foot slip n’ slides for at least two weeks after attempting this.
Steak or BBQ sauce. Over the past five years I’ve made probably 3 or 4 gallons of this stuff and none of it was that good, usually because I was lacking some ingredients (orange zest) or the recipe was overly ambitious (no sugar BBQ sauce that also tasted great).
Hair dye. There are blogs that claim one can change their hair color with lemon, cinnamon, tea or honey. After spending several hours under the cap, I can assure you the difference in the before/after is underwhelming. There’s probably a hair type where each of these solutions works, but since my hair is porous and curly, I might as well go with the dye that’s been formulated to be ‘gentle.’
Conditioner. While we’re on the topic of hair products, I’ll admit that once (or five times) I've used mayonnaise as a deep conditioner. You know what? All this does is make your head smell like egg salad. The number of shampoos required to remove the smell negated any conditioning benefits of the oil.
Lastly, shaving butter. Coconut oil and honey are delicious, but don’t have the physical properties to make for a proper shave.

Those are the major busts. Here is a list of natural items that have worked, with recipes:

Bronzer: 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 – 3 TBSP starch (corn, tapioca, etc.) You will also smell amazingly delicious to yourself circa six or seven hours into wearing it. This recipe also works as a dry shampoo for dark hair.
Copper pot bottom cleaner: 1 TBSP ketchup + 1 TSP salt. This isn’t as good as Barkeeper’s Friend, but it will make do.
Silver jewelry cleaner: Non-gel toothpaste: I hate tarnish, and I hate getting out the silver cleaner and a rag just for my Claire’s earrings. Nothing beats minty fresh ears!
Sauerkraut: If you can handle the smell, 1 head of shredded green cabbage + 3 TBSP salt + time. I've made some of the best tasting sauerkraut with doubling up gallon Ziploc baggies. Most people make theirs with stone pots or jars. The important thing here is to use good cabbage; red and savoy cabbage make subpar kraut because it’s so dry compared to green cabbage.
Fat free, creamy salad dressing: 1 TBSP fat free Greek yogurt + 1 TSP spicy mustard + 1 TSP honey + enough white vinegar to thin out the mixture enough for your tastes. I make this every couple of days to put on my salads at work. It’s not ranch, but it’s not the ole’ oil and vinegar standby either.
Conditioner: Use enough molasses to cover your head. I’m not sure why this is so great, but my dark curls look phenomenal (even better than a coconut oil soak) after leaving this on for 30 minutes and washing it out. I hear honey works as an equivalent for light hair, but I can't personally verify this.

Protein muffins:
·         1 cup of whey protein
·         1 cup of flour (I use whole wheat pastry or barley but regular is fine)
·         2 TSP baking powder (I use Haines Featherweight no sodium)
·         3 sweetener packets (I use Stevia)
·         ½ TSP cinnamon
·         ½ TSP allspice
·         2 large eggs
·         1 TSP vanilla
·         1 TBSP canola oil
·         ½ C applesauce (no sugar added)
·         ½ C fat free Greek yogurt

Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl. Mix all wet ingredients together in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix. Pour into ten muffin cups and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Depending on the brand of whey used, each muffin contains around 100 calories, 10 grams of protein, less than 3 grams of total fat, and 10-12 grams of carbohydrates.

Some lessons learned about these muffins:
·         If you put more than the described amount of flour or protein in these, they will come out roughly the consistency of rocks.
·         If you use chocolate flavored protein, replace the spices with 1 TSP of unsweetened cocoa powder.
·         Pureed pumpkin can be substituted for applesauce, but the muffins will come out less sweet (they aren't very sweet in the first place).

*Two orders of Shave Butter have been paid for and are shipping directly to our house post haste.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Best Kinds of Sales

“DIVORCE SALE,” was written in big, rushed letters on the sign.

“Honey, do you think we should turn around?” I’m not usually pulled in by sales on the side of the road, especially highways, and especially from people holding signs.

“I think if we’re going to turn around, we should do it right now.”
“No. Because you know what will happen. We’ll buy something very nice for very cheap and get a visit from a very angry person in a week or two.”

“We got all that other nice furniture from a divorce. Just sayin’”
“I know. But it wasn’t purchased from a sad person holding a sign on the highway…”
“She could throw it in the bushes just in case he shows up.”

Ah yes, divorce sales… which are arguably even better than the combined total of estate, yard, and bake sales because there’s an element of one person trying to screw other another (or letting go of “baggage”) in a divorce sale.