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I don’t usually blog when I cook. I cook something new 4-5 times a week. Blogging all of that would be way too time consuming! But this got a lot of attention, comments, and questions.

Riced cauliflower:

A head of cauliflower processed in a food processor, about the size of rice.

Cook the cauliflower. I put it in a pan and sautéed it in coconut oil and then put it in the oven with the zucchini for five minutes.

You can steam it, sauté it, microwave it.. Whatever.

It’s a really great alternative to rice. A much better texture and flavor in my opinion.

Stuffed Zucchini:

3 medium zucchini
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
Small onion, chopped
Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Curry powder
Salt
Pepper
2 Tablespoons sour cream
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brown the onion in a pan. Add curry powder and leave on heat for 30 more seconds.
Meanwhile cut the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the pulp.
Chop the pulp and put it in a bowl.
Add the chopped red pepper, thyme, salt, pepper, sour cream, and the onions when they are done.
Put the prepared zucchini boats into a oiled/buttered baking dish.
Fill the zucchini with the mixture and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes.

Yum!

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I just took a shower. I should probably reserve a bit of dignity for myself and not tell you how often I shower. I’ll pretend its because I have a busy toddler. But it’s not.

Though I now feel the need to share… it isn’t good for you to shower every day. Probably not even every other day. Your body has quite a few wonderful self cleaning processes and cleaning too often can really interfere with them. It may lead to acne, dry skin, etc. And then you most likely shower more and put more unhelpful things on your skin in attempt to alleviate the problem. It’s a vicious cycle. And any television station you watch or magazine you flip through will be certain to encourage this process.

By “you” I don’t mean all of you. Maybe some of you? One of you? Regardless.. just some food for thought. :)

Anywho – I took a shower.

I feel the need to share this information because I feel quite refreshed and pleased with myself after this particular shower.

I used a simple bar of soap with three ingredients.
I did not use shampoo – I recently jumped on the “no ‘poo” bandwagon.
I scrubbed with sugar scrub that I made.
Afterwards I brushed my teeth with http://anowlsnest.com/2012/03/31/homemade-toothpaste/.
I might even slap on some homemade deodorant.

That was an incredibly inexpensive, non-toxic, refreshing, healthy shower. :)

How do you feel about each of those things? I’m assuming if you haven’t yet heard of it you may be stuck on the “no ‘poo” part. No shampoo. That’s right. We’ve given it up. Even if you use natural shampoos.. take a peek at the label. There are a heck of a lot of things in there you probably don’t want on your head. What we’re doing is pretty simple. I put two cups of water and two tablespoons of baking soda in a spray bottle. There you go. “shampoo”

Tonight was my first try – I’ve heard your hair can get pretty oily and weird for a little bit after just starting it so I’ll post an update later and let you know how it’s going.

Why no shampoo, you ask? Shampoo hasn’t been around forever. Hair worked out just fine and dandy before it came along. Shampoo actually strips your hair of useful things. It can become oily because its trying to overcompensate. Or dry and frizzy because it isn’t trying to compensate. Complicated. Messes with the natural eb and flow of oils. So I’ll give my head a chance to get back its equilibrium and see what happens. I’d love to only use baking soda and water on my hair when I shower.. I really would! No dyes, no fragrances, no chemicals, no weird processes to make it, no worry about what happens when it goes down the drain..

Fingers crossed. :)

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I’ve been pretty into making things myself lately. Initially as a strategy to save money but as a healthy measure for my family as I continue to learn more disturbing information. I’m going to try not to rant here… but oh my gosh… there are millions of things that millions of Americans do daily that are detrimental to their health. It’s absurd.

I’ve heard that people make toothpaste. Cool.. I’ll make toothpaste too. But why? Yes, it is by far cheaper. And… a billion times healthier. Here is a little information about why the toothpaste you most likely brushed your teeth today may be harming you and is probably, actually, HARMING YOUR TEETH.

Most toothpastes and hygiene products foam, right? Foaming and soapy suds make us think that something is working to make us more clean. You wash your hair and it doesn’t get all foamy so you add more soap, right? Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is what does that.

SLS is one of those crazy things that can be found in many products in your home in small doses but that can also be used for completely different things in very large amounts. SLS is used to clean oil spills. It’s in bubble bath. In shampoo. In toothpaste.

Have you ever noticed that many hygiene products say to flush your eyes out with water if you accidentally get it in your eye? Have you ever had your shampoo or face wash get into your eye and cause it to get red and sting? Thats the SLS. SLS is known to be a harmful skin irritant and can actually cause damage to the mucous membranes in your eye. Yuck. It is also known to be toxic to the liver and kidneys, it can be deadly to fish and aquatic animals (good thing we’re washing it down our drains daily!), and is listed as a hazard by the National Institute of Health. It’s (big surprise!) known to cause eczema and other skin problems as well as mouth ulcers (canker sores).

You may find that some of your hygiene products say that they’re free of SLS because people are getting smart and learning to avoid certain harsh chemicals. However they most likely contain equally terrible things such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate.. which don’t seem to be any better. So read the label and educate yourself about what you’re reading.

Cases of sensitive teeth and mouth cancers on the rise… Wonder why? Of course many things can be playing into those issues but putting chemicals in your mouth and inevitably ingesting a little can’t be helpful, can it?

Most toothpastes contain artificial colors and flavors – neither of which are healthy or even close to natural. Both of which are very bad for you, especially for children. If you don’t know anything about what artificial colors do I strongly encourage you to do some research, especially if you have children.

So I poked around and found some very convincing evidence of tooth decay and enamel problems being slowed, stopped, and even reversed in people of all ages after switching to a homemade, safe, and natural toothpaste.

I picked out a pretty simple recipe to start with. If this goes well I may keep it, experiment with changing the taste, or try one of the more complicated recipes out there.

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Easy Homemade Toothpaste:
5 Tablespoons Baking Soda
4 Tablespoons Organic Coconut Oil
10 Drops Organic Peppermint Oil
optional: a pinch of Xylitol to make it sweeter

Mix the ingredients together, apply to your toothbrush, and brush away!

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Remember.. it won’t foam. But that’s a good thing! :)

After brushing my teeth felt so squeaky clean and I was left with a refreshing peppermint aftertaste. The baking soda taste may be overpowering to some – simply add more peppermint oil or xylitol if this is the case.

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Did you know about what harm your toothpaste could be causing? Do you use natural toothpaste or make your own?

Making ricotta at home is so fast and easy! And less expensive than store bought ricotta as well.

There are many many ways to make ricotta cheese but this is the method that I use and like.

You’ll need:
A pot
A strainer
Cheesecloth
2 qts milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons vinegar

Combine the milk, cream, and vinegar in the pot and bring to a boil for a few minutes. You’ll see the milk curdling as it boils. Let it cool and then strain. Squeeze to get the excess liquid out.

You can strain it warm if you want warm ricotta but it will curdle a bit more as it cools so you’ll yield a little more that way.

You can use the leftover whey in baked goods or as a replacement for water in soups.

If the mixture is boiling add a bit more vinegar until you see it curdle.

You can very easily half or double this recipe. As is it yields about three cups of ricotta. But I snack as I strain it do I could be wrong. ;)

Enjoy! It’s soooo yummy!

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Do you make ricotta? If so, how?

I’m sitting here with a big bowl of homemade yogurt with local raw honey mixed in.. So I thought it would be a good time to type of a post about how I made the yogurt. Especially since I decided to scratch tonight’s to do list. Just not feeling like doing laundry and cleaning things.

We recently started getting a lot of milk thanks to WIC. We don’t really drink much milk so it’s been interesting. We don’t have to accept it everything that our monthly checks are for but I would like to try to put it all to good use if I can. I’ve been making sugar free kheer way too often. Last weekend I gave yogurt a try and I was so impressed at how easy it was and how yummy it is!

I started by googling how to make yogurt. I came up with quite a few different strategies and kept searching until I found one that would work for me, at Kitchen Stewardship. I had to reread the post a few times.. it’s really long and wordy.. so I’m reposting everything that I did here for both future reference for myself and for you. :)

What you’ll need:
Glass containers with lids
A large pot (that will hold your glass jars)
A dish cloth
Milk (any type you like)
Starter yogurt (2 Tbsp for every 4 cups of milk) (with live active cultures and no extra ingredients)
Thermometer
Spoon
Towels
Timer or clock

I started by sterilize four large glass canning jars along with their lids, a thermometer, and a spoon in a pressure cooker.

After letting them air dry I put the dish cloth in the bottom of the pressure cooker and put the clean jars on top.  I added approximately three cups of milk into each jar (I used a mixture of whole and 2% milk).

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I did my best to secure the sterilized thermometer to one of the jars and I filled the pressure cooker with warm water to about the same level as the milk.

I turned the burner to medium, sealed the lid (with the weight off) and waited.  Every 15 minutes or so I peeked in.

Your goal is to heat the milk to 185 degrees.

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Once it reaches 185 degrees you have successfully sterilized the milk.  This would be a good time to take your starter yogurt out of the refrigerator so it isn’t too chilly when you mix it in.

Put the lids on the jars.

After sterilizing the milk it needs to cool to somewhere between 90-110 degrees for the incubation period.  My thermometer does not go that low so I shot for a bit under the lowest mark of 120.

There are many options available for cooling the milk.  I put the jars in the sink and then added tap water.  Unfortunately this cracked one of the jars which is why the water in the photo below looks cloudy.  Next time I will simply let the jars sit on the counter.  It will be a longer wait but I won’t risk cracking a jar.

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Make sure you keep the thermometer clean as you move it around during these steps.  Check the temperature of the milk as often as you see fit.

When it reaches the desired temperature (between 90 and 110 degrees) add the starter yogurt.  Since I lost one jar I was down to three (9 cups of milk, so I added about 1.5 Tbsp of yogurt to each jar).  Gently add the yogurt and stir.

Incubate the milk/yogurt mixture between 90 and 120 degrees anywhere from 4-24 hours.

I first put the pressure cooker full of boiling water into the oven on top of a towel. The jars were outside of the canner right next to it, wrapped up in the towels.  Every so often I switched the pressure canner out with a tea pot in order to keep warm water inside.  Keep in mind that every time you open the door or check the temperature you will be losing heat.  This is one of a number of ways to incubate the yogurt.

Unfortunately I realized that I needed the oven to make dinner so I had to make a quick switch, which is generally not preferred.. you should keep the yogurt as still as possible during incubation as the bacteria multiply.

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I grabbed our cooler, lined it with a towel, added the tea pot of boiling water, nestled the jars next to the tea pot and covered them with a towel before closing the lid.

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I let the yogurt incubate for seven hours.  After seven hours I had three jars of yogurt!

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The separation is normal.. just like you would find in most store bought yogurt. Simply mix it together if you like.  Or reserve it for another use.

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Place your jars in the freezer for an hour to quickly cool the yogurt and get a sturdier texture.

Overall it was a really simple process.  The incubation period was slightly complicated due to having to move everything. Bad planning on my part.  I hope to not break a jar next time.  Clean up is a breeze, your yogurt is already in the containers that you’ll store it in.

The temperature to which you cool the milk and your length of incubation both influence the taste and texture of the yogurt.  Play around with it until you get what you like.  Shorter incubation will be sweeter.  Longer incubation will have less lactose.

Thanks to Kitchen Stewardship for the tutorial.  :)

This recipe does not fit very well into the Paleo-ish portion of my elimination diet but it is sugar free, which is most important. We have a bunch of rice right now so why not use it.. I’m not making kheer for nutrition purposes, it is purely for pleasure.

Rice pudding has always been a favorite of mine. I always used to order it at diners and breakfast shops when I was a kid. As a special treat I would sometimes have store bought rice pudding at home.

I began eating more “internationally” after leaving home for college. I developed a love of many types of food, especially Indian. Imagine my delight when I tasted kheer for the first time. :) All of the pleasures of rice pudding… And more!

I discovered a kheer recipe around a year ago and began frequently making it at home. This was very exciting for me though slightly disappointing.. It really is so easy to make – I wish I would have known how to make it myself when I was younger or that my parents would have known how to make it for me. It’s surely more economical, more tasty, and much healthier. But alas.. I will look to the future and dream of all of the homemade kheer I will make for Olive (and any subsequent Fialas). :)

Typically kheer has a decent amount of sugar in it so I sought out to do some experimenting. I got lucky and made a super yummy batch on my first try.

What you’ll need:
– 8 cups of milk (whole, 2%, skim.. whatever)
– 3 cardamom pods
– 3/4 cup of basmati rice
– 1/3 cup of maple syrup
– 1 tbsp-ish of honey

Heat milk and smashed cardamom pods in a heavy bottom pot until bubbling. Heat very slowly – be patient so it does not burn on the bottom.

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Simmer for approximately an hour or until milk has reduced by about half.

Add the rice and stir. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the maple syrup and honey and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes until rice is tender. Don’t overlook the rice.

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Enjoy your kheer warm straight from the pot or let it cool and chill it. Along the way you can add raisins, a cinnamon stick, unsweetened shredded coconut, or anything else you would like. :)

I enjoyed a small dish of warm kheer with cinnamon and shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Yum!

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Kheer is a staple in our house and I’m so glad that I can still enjoy it sugar free! I honestly think I like it better this way. :)

What was one of your favorite special childhood snacks? Do you still enjoy it?

You may remember back in December when I posted a little tutorial for homemade almond milk.. and how I mentioned at the end that you can use the resulting pulp to make either almond meal or almond flour..

Well a few nights ago I finally got around to giving it a try! After each batch of almond milk I froze the pulp until I had what seemed to be a decent amount for making flour.

I suppose I technically made almond meal not almond flour.. But whatever. Meal contains the little almond “peels” and flour does not. They can be used interchangeably.

I spread out all of the pulp onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper as the oven was preheating (set to 200 degrees).

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I let the pulp dry out for about 90 minutes. I moved it around a few times with a wooden spoon.

After it seemed dried out I took it out and it looked like this:

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Obviously not quite flower.

In little bits, maybe a cup at time, I blended it using my immersion blender.

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After blending it all I put it into a jar and then I had a jar of almond flour!

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This can be used as a gluten free substitute for flour in any recipe! I’m planning to make my “famous” chocolate chip cookies with it! Yum! :)

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