Sunday, April 17, 2011

Back on the Wagon: Homemade Cold Remedies

It's been a lllloooonnnnggg 2 months folks.  I'll spare you all the details but it included spending 3 days driving to AZ with a 3 year old for vacation (yes, I am crazy), Isa giving up both the pacifier and naps, and multiple rounds of germs for both Isa and myself.  Adding insult to injury, I decided to give up coffee for Lent.  I am quite happy to have all the extra caffeine out of my system but this was perhaps the worst possible time to be without my favorite comfort.  Afterall, no naps for Isa means no naps for me as well! My butt has been thoroughly kicked.

I readily admit that I went into survival mode.  We have eaten out way more than we should have.  During my recent bout with the flu, I even went so far astray as to purchase Top Ramen.  Very few green vegetables have made it to our plates.

But I didn't cave entirely.  In the few moments of relative calm I manage to bake bread and muffins, make homemade yogurt, cook up some vegetable stock, and try out a variety of homemade cold remedies, which is what I thought I'd post on to get the blog ball rolling again.

This month Isa got a nasty head cold.  She usually has the most amazing immune system.  In the three years since coming home, she's only ever had 1 fever.  And even that only lasted one evening.  She would simply pick up the germs and pass them to me- thanks kiddo!   But this spring she's been sick twice and I was unprepared for how to make her feel better, especially when the second cold came with a nasty, nasty cough.

Here's what we tried:

Oregano Tea: On the advice of a friend, I made tea from oregano to help with Isa's cough.  She refused to drink it, even mixed with apple juice.   When I made a batch for my bout with the flu, I steeped it with cinnamon sticks and cloves, then added a fair bit of honey before drinking.  I'm not sure how much it helped but it was quite tasty!

OTC medicine: On the second or third night of Isa's constant coughing, I did actually give her a half dose of children's cough medicine.  It helped her stop coughing long enough to fall asleep but then it put her in this strange state where she would be yelling out for me ("I want Mama! I want Mama!") while I was holding her and talking to her.  I decided it wasn't worth the marginal help with her cough.

Bathroom Sauna: When Isa woke- again- coughing and hallucinating from the medicine, I was at my wit's end.  We both needed sleep!  I decided to try steam, on the advice of yet another friend.  I carried Isa into the bathroom, turned the shower on hot, opened the shower curtain and sat in the dark on the toilet rocking her.  Our tiny bathroom got steamy pretty quick and we sat there for about 10 minutes.  That night she slept well, so this is definitely something I'll remember to do next cold.

Homemade almost-Vicks rub: Anyone else fondly remember Vapor Rub?  I loved that stuff as a kid- how it warmed your chest and opened your nasal passages.  I thought it would be interesting to attempt to make my own rub since Vicks isn't recommended for small children anymore.  Did you know that lab-created camphor is made from turpentine oil?  Doesn't really sound like something I want to rub on my child.  I only used eucalyptus oil for this rub but I also saw online recipes that included other scents like peppermint oil and/or lavender.   Unfortunately, I didn't count the drops of oil as I added it so you'll have to figure out your own ratio for that.  Eucalyptus is a very intense scent but you want to add MORE than you think is necessary.  I didn't add enough and the final product isn't as heavily scented as I would like.

1/8 cup bees wax
1/2 cup olive oil
Eucalyptus essential oil

Melt the bees wax into the oil, add the essential oil(s), pour into a container and let cool.  Rub into skin as needed.

At night I rubbed it on our chests and also on the soles of our feet because I'd heard that Vicks on the soles of your feet will help with cough. (Why? I have no idea, but I heard it from more than one source!)  Again, I wished the rub was more intensely scented but it did help open nasal passages a bit and if nothing else, my skin felt lovely and soft afterward!

And since I'm always looking for more advice, what do you do to banish the germs in your house?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lemon-palooza: part I

I had planned to write about something else tonight.  But, alas, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day around here.  Isa is just getting over a nasty cold, which she has now passed on to me.  Despite beautiful, sunny weather for the last several days, it's been quite cold and I decided to keep us quarantined inside in hopes of keeping the colds from getting worse.  Even more profound- yesterday Isa lost her beloved "baba" (aka pacifier) before naptime and while I might have found it later that afternoon (shhh! don't tell her!), she slept fairly well without it last night and that marks the end of baba.  All of those issues conspired to make today really horrendous.  There was yelling (from both of us), crying (again, both of us), ferrel animal screaming (just Isa actually, though I definitely wanted to join her).

I. Am. Exhausted.

The only therapy available to me at the moment is baking.  And so I did.

My fabulous friend Allison down in AZ has recently been drowning in homegrown lemons and grapefruit.  So when she offered to send me a box, I very happily accepted!  The box came late last week and I've been plotting what to do with them.  I'm not sure I have the patience required for marmalade, so right now the list includes lemon curd, preserved lemons, a citrus olive oil cake, and homemade pectin.

Let Lemon-palooza begin!

Tonight's baking was totally on the fly, must-bake-or-I-will-go-crazy stuff.  We are out of breakfast foods, so I decided on muffins and when surveying the possible ingredients, I decided to try lemon poppy seed muffins.  The smell of freshly zested lemons is enough to break most anyone out of a deep funk, thank goodness.  And once I got the zest in, I decided I didn't want to mar the taste of the lemons and left out the poppy seeds.

Unless I state otherwise, all my muffin recipes start with the AtoZ recipe and divert from there.  Tonight was no different.

Lemon-palooza Muffins

(makes 24 muffins)

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 1/2 c vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 c white sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix together dry ingredients and set aside.
Beat eggs.  Add yogurt and vanilla, cream well.  Add zest and lemon juice, mix well.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.
Spoon into greased muffin tins.
Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Verdict: Not bad.  All yogurt instead of oil/butter/etc definitely changes the consistency of baked goods, so keep that in mind.  If you want a fluffier muffin (heehee, that sounds awfully dirty), then I'd suggest half yogurt/half oil.  And honestly, I could do with even more lemon-y zing, so feel free to add more zest and/or juice at your own discretion.  I certainly will next time.

When life (or a good friend) sends you lemons....

... bake some muffins!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Poor little neglected blog

It's been a busy and tiring couple of weeks over here. I recently increased my hours with one of my jobs and I'm still trying to figure out how the make the schedule work. For the last several weeks, I have worked past 1 a.m. nearly every night. Last night I was worked until 2:15. So blogging just hasn't happened.

The good news (aside from the larger paycheck and Veronica Mars marathons I've been enjoying) is that the homemade-goodness has continued despite the added stress and decreased sleep. Here are a few of the yummy offerings from the kitchen in recent days:

Oatmeal pear muffins

Sauteed collard greens with bacon jam

Rustic tart from the bacon fat pie crust, stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and cheese

Cream-braised green cabbage (from Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life)

The first three items were for the most part improvised, something I'm proud to be slowly getting better at. The cabbage was out of this world- something I never thought I'd ever say about cabbage. My picture really doesn't do this dish justice. Just typing about it makes me want to go eat the leftovers ASAP.

Even though I haven't had the time to blog lately, I have been filing away ideas in my brain. Topics to look forward to in the near future: whole wheat tortillas, the oil cleansing method, oatmeal, and where to store all these raw materials.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe Round-up: CSA box

I get a CSA box delivered every other week via Full Circle Farms.  Several days in advance, they publish the box contents.  I can go online to decide whether to swap out any of the items and start to work on ideas for combining the various veggies into culinary deliciousness.  As I looked over the box contents tonight I realized that it might be fun to ask for your ideas.   Here is what I'll be receiving this week:
Box Contents
Avocados, Organic - 2 each
Red Potatoes, Organic - 1.5 pounds
Zucchini, Organic - 1 pound
Green Onions, Organic - 1 bunch
Red Bell Peppers, Organic - 1 each
Green Cabbage, Organic - 1 each
Romaine Lettuce, Organic - 1 bunch
Collard Greens, Organic - 1 bunch
Minneola Tangelos, Organic - 4 each
Kiwi, Organic - 4 each
D'anjou Pears, Organic - 3 each
Pink Lady Apples, Organic - 3 each

What would these ingredients inspire you to make??

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy National Pie Day!

This morning on NPR I heard that it was National Pie Day.  I felt it only appropriate to celebrate by (no surprise) making a pie.  But what kind of pie?

I actually didn't have very many fruits in the house.  There were, however, lots of veggies in the fridge, quite a few of which were nearing the end of their prime and desperately need to be eaten.  I had also gotten a delivery from Amazon Fresh this morning and although I was certain I only ordered one carton of eggs, I got two.  You don't need to be a mathemetician to know that this all adds up to:  A QUICHE!

I haven't made a pie crust in at least 4 years, so I was a little intimidated.  I pulled out my handy Better Homes & Garden "New" Cookbook, a hand-me-down from my Grandma- complete with her handwritten notes on favorite recipes.  (I looked for a copyright date and couldn't find one; my guess is it's an early 1950s edition)  The pie crust recipe called for shortening, which I don't have.  I contemplated using butter and then realized I still had quite a lot of rendered bacon fat still in the fridge.  A little web searching and voila!  Bacon fat pie crust:

Frozen bacon fat..mmmmm...

Cut in the fat
Wrap the dough & chill

Once chilled, roll out.

My nifty little trick for getting the dough into the dish is to fold it into fourths, then lay it into the pie pan and unfold.

Not going to win any pie beauty contests.  :)

 Here is the quiche recipe I based mine on:

The filling ended up being a mish-mash of what most needed eating from the fridge: 1/2 an onion, grape tomatoes and some chard.  While the crust was baking, I sauteed the veggies.  Then I beat the eggs, added heavy cream and a bit of salt and pepper.  I decided against any herbs because I wanted the flavor of the crust and veggies to dominate.

Once the crust was baked and cooled, it was time to assemble.  For a quiche the layering process is always the same:  filling, then cheese (if you didn't mix it directly in with the eggs), then pour the egg mixture over everything.

Normally I would use a lot more cheese than this (we LOVE cheese in this house) but given the bacon fat crust and heavy cream in the egg mixture, I felt it was going to be plenty rich.  I didn't measure, but estimate that I shredded less than a cup of parmesan onto the veggies.
Tomatoes starting to get a little wrinkly.

Fillings waiting in line for the sautee pan.

Final verdict:  If anything, the crust might have been too flaky (is that even possible?).  But oh-so-tasty!  I served it with a very simple green salad.  I hyped it up as "eggy-pie" but Isa didn't eat any of it, although that might have been because the first bite she tried was still too warm and she's very, very picky of food being too hot.  She did eat an entire bowl of salad, so I didn't push my luck.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beyond Food

As I alluded to several posts ago, I have finally moved beyond food in my homemade experimenting!  Last week I used up the last of the shampoo in my bottle.  Then I scrounged around and found some sample packets of shampoo in my travel stash.  But on Monday morning, I used the last of those and it was time to make some shampoo!

Living in Seattle makes going homemade fairly easy.  I don't have to look far to find raw materials or resort to ordering them online.  Up in north Seattle Zenith Supplies carries all the oils, butters, etc., to make any sort of personal care products I will need.  Monday morning we made our first visit and bought supplies for shampoo, a hair butter for Isa and a project that I'm working up the courage to try (more on that in a future post).

Here is the recipe I used for the shampoo:

1/4 cup Castile soap (I used unscented)
1/4 cup distilled water
2 tsp jojoba oil
10 drops grapefruit essential oil  (a scent I love- choose any scent you prefer!)

I tried it this morning and am happy to report that I got copious amounts of lather.  It rinsed out completely and since the mix had jojoba, I didn't follow my wash with conditioner.  My scalp and hair feel great!

I should add that I have very short hair which is straight and fine, although not thin.  It's pretty boring, basic hair that doesn't need a lot of special attention.  If you have dry hair, then perhaps add a little more oil or follow with conditioner.  If you have oily hair, then perhaps add peppermint essential oil and/or tea tree oil.

Now that I've started the process of replacing store bought personal care products with homemade versions, I thought I should take a photo of the shelves in our bathroom.  This is what they looked like today: 

(Sorry for the glare but we actually had SUNSHINE today!)
Obviously, you can see that I didn't edit anything out or clean things up- this is truly a BEFORE shot!  The very top of the shelves holds a lamp (proof that I am a world class procrastinator, but that's a story for another post), a large metal box with just a few of Isa's many hair accessories and the train case, which holds my makeup.   The basket on the top left of the photo holds old cloth diapers used as cleaning cloths.  The middle top basket holds my hair products.  The top right basket holds Isa's hair products.  The bottom baskets are totally random storage- everything from travel sized products (in the sideways plastic box) to nail polish to a really large bottle of hand sanitizer, which honestly, we never use.  I'm hopeful that by the end of the year we will have used up all the random products and replaced them with homemade products, eliminating quite a bit of the clutter on those shelves.  I promise to post progress reports as the year continues.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week in Review

I was felled by a cold this week, so I had no energy for posting until today.  Despite all the germs and exhaustion, I managed to stay homemade all week long.   I thought it would be more difficult than it turned out to be.  Thank goodness for my freezer, though!

Here are some highlights of what we ate this week:

On Sunday I finally roasted a chicken.  I simply stuffed the inside with fresh thyme and 1/2 a lemon, shoved some butter under the skin, then put it in the oven on a bed of onion, carrots and potatoes.  It was a lot juicier than I had anticipated!  I expected the vegetables to end up the way they are when roasted on their own but they ended up cooking in all the juices.  Next time I'll likely do the chicken separate from the vegetables because I really love the crispy, sweet goodness of roasted vegetables.

Ready to go into the oven....
... and ready to come out!

The next day, I picked apart the chicken carcass and made stock.  My soup pot wasn't large enough for all of it, so I used my crock pot as well.  It resulted in 1 very full and 2 reasonably full bags of stock in the freezer.

Today's loaf- yes, we've already eaten 1/3 of it!
On Monday, I made bread again.  I found a great, easy sandwich bread recipe: .  I got smart this time and put my oven on "warm", then set the dough on the oven for both risings.  That worked perfectly.  The recipe went together very quickly and the final loaf was fluffy on the inside but hearty enough to slice easily and hold up to buttering.  The first batch I made with all white flour because that's all I had on hand.  We ate big, buttered slices of the bread with some of the Italian Wedding Soup, defrosted from the freezer. 

And then I ate the bread for breakfast and snack and pretty much all day long!

On Wednesday, to go with the leftover chicken, I made roasted potatoes from a recipe I found on my CSA's food blog:  I did have homemade pesto from my sister in the fridge, but forgot to add it.  Oops.  I have to say these were the best roasted potatoes I have ever made.  The quick boil made the insides of the potatoes soft and then roasting them coated in butter made the outsides beautifully golden and crispy.  Unfortunately, the only way Isa will eat potatoes is as French fries.  Since this technique made the potatoes very similar in texture to fries (minus the fried/oily taste), I think I will try this recipe next with the potatoes cut in strips and see if it will meet with her approval.  If not, then more for me to eat, right?

Isa was with my parents on Friday, so I could work some extra hours.  I only made it 6 hours before I had come home feeling crummy.  Not surprisingly, I wanted something quick and easy for dinner.  I have found that the best thing to make on nights like that is scrambled eggs.  Very quick, nutritious, plenty of protein to keep you satisfied.  Of course, when you scramble them in bacon fat and add some shredded cheese, they're even more delightful!

Today I made another loaf of the sandwich bread, this time with 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour.  I will definitely make it with both flours from now on.  It was just as fluffy but I prefer the flavor of wheat bread.  To go with the bread, I made a batch of "whatever-was-in-the-fridge" chicken soup. 

The "recipe"?  Well, I sauteed 1/2 an onion (diced) with a large clove of garlic (minced), in a little olive oil.  I added some fresh thyme and sauteed until the onion was mostly translucent.  I put one thawed freezer bag of stock in my soup pot, added the onion mixture, then shredded chicken (leftover from the roasted chicken), and diced veggies from the fridge.  I had carrots, a small turnip, and chard stems.  Cook on low.  Umm.. that's it.  Nothing fancy but oh-so-delicious.

Tonight I also made coffee creamer for the first time.  I mashed up a whole bunch of recipes I'd found online (just google "homemade coffee creamer").  I didn't want to use sweetened condensed milk, which quite a lot of the recipes called for.  Instead, I used 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 heavy cream.  I added 2 tsp of vanilla extract, about 2 Tbsp of sugar and a good sprinkling of cinnamon.  I warmed it all in a saucepan on the stove for about 1/2 an hour to get the flavors to meld.   It's pretty tasty, although certainly not as sweet as I am used to given how overly sweet the store bought kind is.  I think once my taste buds adjust the sweetness will be just fine but I highly recommend straining it.  Gritty cinnamon at the bottom of the cup wasn't so great!

 For breakfasts this week, I made a batch of experimental oatmeal raisin muffins.  I took my favorite muffin recipe and played with it, attempting to make it taste like oatmeal raisin cookies in muffin form.  The first batch was okay but a bit dry.  I'm going to work on perfecting the recipe and once I have a final version, I'll post it here.

So that's what we ate this week.  What did you all eat???