Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lemon Face Toner

Today I made a new type of face toner! I had planned to make more pine-infused toner, but I ran across this recipe an I haven't had time to go collect pine tried this instead!

Ingredients are pretty straight forward, and like other things I've made, this is SOOOO much cheaper than buying it yourself.  Doing a quick google search for "lemon face toner", I found that you can buy similar products for $6-$20 per bottle! I think I spent $3 for the witch hazel and probably between $2-$3 for the lemon juice.  Both of which I had plenty left over to make more or use for other purposes.

As I've said before, toners are great for your skin and should be a part of your skin care routine (though I'm still trying to make sure I don't slack off in this department!). They tighten your pores to help prevent breakouts and the lemon juice in this one adds brightness to your skin as well.

This fun little recipe uses only three ingredients. Let's start with water. It's always a good idea to use distilled water when making your own bath and body products, but if you don't have any available you can use filtered tap water. It is really important to use filtered tap water if you have extremely hard water as the minerals could interfere with the quality of your products.  However, if your water is relatively soft and you feel a little lazy, it should be fine.

Witch hazel is an astringent derived from a plant and is very good for your skin. It's often used as a base for various types of tinctures.  It's not only an astringent, but also an antimicrobial agent, an anti-inflammatory, and it contains tannins that tighten skin and promote healing.  The tannins make it useful for as an anti-aging ingredient.  It is also used to treat dry skin conditions because it has moisturizing properties.  It is used to treat eczema and even sunburns! It can be picked up rather cheaply from grocery/drug stores for no more than a few bucks per bottle.

Finally, the lemon juice! This ingredient has lots of vitamin C and citric acid, both of which brighten skin and reduce the appearance of scars.  It also helps to exfoliate the skin.  It has astringent properties and acts as a natural skin bleach. (This helps to reduce the appearance of blotches and freckles.)

I made this little batch and poured it into a clean glass bottle that once held tonic. (My hubby loves his gin & tonics...and I love reusing things when possible!)  Okay, here's that recipe! Enjoy! :)

Lemon Skin-Brightening Facial Toner
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Distilled Water
1/3 cup Witch Hazel

1) Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight jar.

To Use: Add a small amount of toner to a cotton ball and apply to a clean face and neck twice a day.

*~*Ideal for people with normal to dry skin.
For oily skin, add 2 Tbsp. Isopropyl Alcohol.*~*

*~*This should keep at room temperature for about a month.*~* 

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Dozen Bacon Roses: Our Valentine's Tradition

So yesterday was Valentine's day and my husband and I were excited to celebrate it as husband and wife for the first time. Our tradition has been that I make him a special breakfast, and he makes me a special dinner.  Last year, I made him a dozen roses out of bacon...and that's near-impossible to top, so I decided to make them again this year! :) Unfortunately, they came out a little under-cooked on the bottom, but I think I know how to solve that!  But I didn't stop there...I also made a coconut limeade to drink, and a huevos rancheros-like stack in the shape of hearts. :) Gotta love themed breakfast!  We also picked up a roommate recently who happens to be single.  Rather than making him feel left-out from our celebration of love, I made him breakfast too! Here's our little set up!

Okay, so here's how I made Valentine's breakfast! Let's start with the tortillas. I happened to have a big heart-shaped cookie cutter from years past, so I used that to cut out heart-shaped corn tortillas.
I did this the night before, then the morning of, I placed them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes just before my eggs were done.  Before baking, I sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt on one side.

I also had to do a little prep-work on the bacon bouquet the night before.  While Matt was at work, I ran down to the Dollar Tree and grabbed two things of roses (with six flowers in each) for a buck a piece.  When I got home, I removed the tags, and ripped out the flower petals and their inserts.  I kept the plastic sepals to frame the bacon roses and to give them stability.

This wasn't my first rodeo with bacon roses.  I made them for the first time last year.  So I already had a special bacon-rose-making pan.  This was an old 12 cup mini muffin tin with holes drilled in the bottoms of the cups to let grease drain out properly.  Upon waking Valentine's morning, I preheated the oven for 375 degrees F and pulled out the bacon.  Working with single strips at a time, I started on one end of the bacon and tightly rolled it into a nice little coil. I then sat each roll upright into the special tin, which was sitting on a cooling rack stacked on a jelly-roll pan.  It's better if you use a broiler pan to catch the drippings, but I don't have one of those anymore, so I made due best I could. I placed the whole apparatus into the oven for 45 minutes.

When they finally came out, they weren't completely cooked, but we ate them anyway. The tops were cooked fine, but the bottoms were a little under done.  I'm not sure if flipping them halfway through would have helped, or if they were just more fatty than usual and I should have cooked them longer.  The tops were nice and crispy, so I kind of liked the texture/flavor contrast, but next year I hope they are more thoroughly prepared! The rolls went directly onto the plastic-coated metal stems  above the sepals. Then a few aesthetic adjustments to flower positioning and placing the bouquet in our traditional Valentine's day flower vase (the first bottle we ever shared together one of our infamous "not-dates"...) and the bacon roses were done. For better details on how to make these, check out this link.

While the bacon was in the oven, I sauteed some hashbrowns from frozen shredded potatoes in a skillet with olive oil drizzles.  Seasoned them with salt and pepper...nothing special here. I also heated up a can of chili beans just before I was ready to assemble the plates.  The hashbrowns were reheated in the microwave just before serving because they ended up getting cold by the time they were needed. Somewhere in there, I also made the morning beverage.  This year, the drink was a yummy coconut limeade! I started with cool water, a quarter cup or so of lime juice, and a half a cup or more of white, granulated sugar. Once mixed well, I added a half of a teaspoon or so of coconut extract.  After stirring again, I tasted the product and made adjustments to the recipe until it tasted lightly sweetened with tangy lime notes and undertones of coconut. Yummy!

The toughest part was the eggs, but after making six of them, I got pretty good at it!  Using the same heart-shaped cookie cutter as I used for cutting tortillas, I sprayed a small skillet with olive oil, then placed the cookie cutter into the skillet (sharp side down).  I cracked an egg into the heart, then lightly broke up the yolk and spread the white around to make sure I got the heart shape that I wanted.  Then I seasoned with salt and pepper before adding a little grated Parmesan cheese as it began to set. (Careful with temp. here...too hot and it burns without being completely cooked, too cool and the egg won't cook properly.) When mostly set, I used a dishtowel to lift the hot cookie cutter up and a butter knife to free the egg by cutting the edges carefully.  Then I flipped the heart over and cooked it a minute or so longer on the other side to make sure it was done.  I repeated this until I had made six egg-hearts.

Then it was finally time to assemble.  The eggs went on bottom.  The now-baked tortillas where placed on top of the eggs.

Then came the re-heated hashbrown layer:

Followed by the chili beans layer....and finally, topped with mozzarella cheese! Mmmmm!!!!

We each got two of these tasty stacks.  I ate them as is, but I sat out hot sauce for the guys.  Then I set the table with the bacon roses as the centerpiece.  I even set out gifts for each of them.  What better way to start your day than with presents and a good breakfast?! Both approved of the breakfast in both flavor and appearance categories! :p It was a little more time intensive, but it was a lot of fun!

Happy Late 
Valentine's Day Everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Meatless Monday Patties in Mushroom Sauce

One of the best little things you can do for sustainable food is devote one night a week to a meal without meat.  It seems small, stupid even...but this little act can have major impacts when you multiply it by the number of people in your family, the number of weeks in a year, and the number of people willing to make this tiny sacrifice. We instituted Meatless Monday a while back, but we aren't always good about remembering it...sometimes in the delirium of hunger and exhaustion from a day of work, I don't even realize that it's Monday by the time I finally make it home. (This semester, Mondays have been my longest day...comprised of 8am and 9am classes on one campus, a seminar class on another campus at 2:30, and ending with a lab back on the original campus that conflicts with my seminar by half an hour...I'm definitely not responsible for my lack of brain activity by the time I get home around 6pm or 7pm.)

Do I want to be more consistent about having a Meatless Monday? Absolutely, but the biggest selling point lately hasn't been the environmental impacts...those are just perks...the motivation has been the fact that meat is expensive.  We have been eating less of it just because we have to wait for most things go on sale before we can fit them into our budget. The other exciting thing about Meatless Monday, for me, is the challenge it presents.  Though difficult in my Monday-mindset, it is always fun to create something hearty and delicious without meat.

Yesterday, I achieved this lofty Meatless Monday goal.  I made something I had read about weeks ago, but never got around to doing.  Like anything else I make, I deviated a bit from the original recipe.  However, these turned out way better than I expected...and I expected them to be pretty good!

I really think they need a more appetizing name, but I haven't come up with anything that I like yet.  Oat and Cottage Cheese Patties in Mushroom Sauce is barely palatable,  but I give you my word, they were delicious!  These little babies are packed with fiber from the oats and gave a nice umami flavor combo because of the onion soup mix and cottage cheese combo...not to mention the mushrooms, which pretty much define umami anyway.  I used low-fat, small curd cottage cheese because that's what was on sale last week.  I also used canola oil for frying, which is slightly more healthy than frying in vegetable oil.  I suppose EVOO would be the best to cook in, but I don't usually fry things in it since it is a little on the high-cost end.  Low-sodium condensed mushroom soup is also a little better for you than the regular kind if you can get it! Anyway, I served these with green beans and a side salad, and three people left the table happy.  Hope you enjoy this one as much as we did!

Oat/Cottage Cheese Patties in Mushroom Sauce
*Disclaimer: Ingredients are listed in relative amounts.*

3 eggs
1&1/2 cups whole oats
1 to 1&1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 pkg onion soup mix
a few pinches of rubbed sage
canola oil
1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
black pepper and paprika to taste

1) Preheat oven to 350° and set out a 9x13 glass baking dish.
2) Beat eggs in a medium bowl, then add oats, cottage cheese, onion soup mix and sage.
3) Pour a small amount of canola oil  into a skillet and turn heat to medium high.
4) Combine ingredients in bowl well by hand and form into palm-sized patties.
5) Gently lay patties into hot oil and brown on each side.  Once done, move patties to the baking dish.
6) After all patties are cooked, whisk mushroom soup and one can full of water together in another bowl.  Season with black pepper and paprika.  Make sure to whisk out any lumps!
7) Pour soup over the patties.  It should cover them completely.
8) Place dish in oven (uncovered) and back for about 20 minutes or until the soup is nice and bubbly.
9) Rescue from oven and serve while hot! :) 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter

Last semester when we moved to Lincoln, we somehow acquired an opened bag of shelled peanuts.  One day, I decided it would be fun to shell them all while watching How I Met Your Mother so that I would have them to munch on later without having to go through the trouble of shelling one for every bite.  However, after seeing them all there...shelled, skinned, and smelling yummy...I decided to go a step further and make them into peanut butter!  It really wasn't hard, but it tasted much different from store-bought types.  It was much less sweet and tasted more like...well...peanuts.  It took a lot of time to shell them, but the result was great! I don't think I'll give up on buying peanut butter at the hubby makes way too many PB&Js for that to even be remotely practical.  However, if some more peanuts were to mysteriously wind up in my lap, I'd have little choice but to repeat this process!  :)
Here's my homemade peanut butter chillin inside the Ninja!

Homemade Peanut Butter
10-15 oz Roasted Peanuts
1 tsp. Salt
1&1/2 tsp. Honey
1&1/2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1) If you don't buy them already shelled, you will need to shell and skin the peanuts.  If working with unroasted peanuts, roast in the oven prior to shelling/skinning for best flavor.
2) Place the first three ingredients into a food processor, or better yet, a Ninja! (I really LOVE my Ninja!) Process for 1 minute.

3) Scrape down the sides, add a small amount of oil, and then process again. Repeat until oil is all added and mixture is smooth (about 1&1/2-2 minutes).

4) Store inside an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.