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Homemade Organic Soap

handmade organic soap

Have you ever thought of making of your own soap? Probably not, but a growing number of people are either buying organic soap from the store or handmaking (cooking) soap at home.

Organic personal care products are now a $750 million annual business in the U.S. alone. Soap is on the front-lines of organic personal care because conventional mass-market soap is often loaded with chemicals that may cause more conflicts with skin allergies. Conventional soap contains a chemical soup of preservatives, colour, and in some cases known cancer-linked toxins like dioxane, parabens, sodium lauryl / laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES), diethanolamine / DEA and propylene glycol.

Skin sensitivities and allergies can be a catalyst for people to try organic soap or make it themselves. Here is an example of what the homemade soap process looks like via Mickey's YouTube Channel 'HandmadeSoaps'.

Making handmade soap from natural and organic ingredients (soap making process):

Organic soaps typically come with a much higher price tag than your typical mass-market soap. For some, this may be reason enough to consider making soap from scratch.

Here are some good resources to learn more about making your own organic handmade soap;

Homemade Soap Recipes
Know Your Cosmetics Ingredients: Top Five Ingredients to Avoid
Easy homemade soap
How to make organic vegan soap
How to Make Lye Soap: Video Series

image mwri

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Market Study: Top 10 Kids Snacks

kids snacksThe NPD Group recently released a new study on the biggest trends in snack-oriented foods among kids ages 2-17. Here is the list:

1. Yogurt (refrigerated)

2. Potato Chips

3. Fresh Fruit

4. String Cheese/Prepackaged Cheese Cubes/Shapes

5. Hard Candy

6. Ice/Fudge/Cream Pops

7. Chewy Candy

8. Corn Chips

9. Donuts

10. Snack Pies/Pastries

Obviously, yogurt, cheese and fruit are more or less ok. But the other 7 items? Brutal.

Where are vegetables, rice cakes or nuts? 7 out of 10 items on this list could easily increase the risk of diabetes. What 'healthy' snacks do you feed your kids?

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Sulfenic Acid: New Study Confirms Garlic Is Good For You!

garlic health

For years scientists and natural health experts believed that garlic was a super-antioxidant that boosted your immune system and helped fight off high cholesterol and even cancer. However, gaining proof had been elusive, until recently when a new Queen's led research study was released that has validated the health benefits of consuming garlic.

What was particularly confusing was that garlic wasn't particularly high in your garden-variety antioxidants like Vitamin E or coenzyme Q10. This new Queen's study puts the focus on an organic compound in garlic called 'allicin' which gives garlic its flavour and scent.

"We didn't understand how garlic could contain such an efficient antioxidant, since it didn't have a substantial amount of the types of compounds usually responsible for high antioxidant activity in plants, such as the flavanoids found in green tea or grapes ... If allicin was indeed responsible for this activity in garlic, we wanted to find out how it worked." - Study Professor Derek Pratt
As the study reveals, it is not allicin per se that makes garlic such a great trapper of free radicals, it's the process of decomposition of allicin as it interacts with sulfenic acid. This decomposition process unleashes a super-antioxidant that magically (or scientifically rather) does an unbelievable job of ridding your body of free radicals. Just how good a job does the sulfenic acid / allicin combination work?
"No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants."
So the bottom line is this, eat it, swallow it, drink it, garlic is darn good for your body!

image eye of einstein

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Take The Green Smoothie Challenge

green smoothieSmoothies have long been a favourite of weight-loss and nutrition programs with good reason. By blending your food before eating, you are making it considerably easier on your body to digest and absorb the nutrients in it. Blending is even more beneficial when it comes to raw fruits and vegetables because they typically are more difficult to breakdown and digest in your stomach, so blending them really gives your body a big nutritional and digestive boost.

If you've been reluctant to try making smoothies and you need a push, you could try the 14-day Green Smoothie Challenge. Created by Australian wellness educator Anand Wells, signing up for the Green Smoothie Challenge will deliver some delicious smoothie recipes right to your inbox.

While blending vegetables and fruit together may take some getting used to, everyone that I know of who has made smoothies a part of their daily diet has lost weight and seen an increase in energy and a boost in overall health.

Here's a great video done by 'OrganicLivingLife' who has taken the Green Smoothie Challenge and done a video showing her preparation / making of her morning green smoothie.

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Turmeric is Terrific

turmeric

Turmeric is that yellow powder you see in most Indian foods and in curry dishes all over Asia. It is a root just like ginger, which is dried and ground into a bright yellow powder. Although turmeric is one of the primary spices in an Indian spice box, it is only used in small amounts due to its strong, pungent flavor and its potent effects on the body. Turmeric is what gives a curry powder or paste its yellow color, and its potency has led to its use as a natural coloring agent in many foods.

Turmeric in India has always had a lot of traditional medicinal use. It was the first thing we were made to eat if we had a sore throat, in a mixture with some honey, as kids growing up in India. Up to this day some people drink warm milk with turmeric in the morning to boost their immune systems and prevent common infections. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric paste is used to cover wounds, acting as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric is great for the skin and has played a role in beautification since ancient times. You still see it used as a part of the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, pithi, where the bride, the groom, or both are covered in turmeric paste before their wedding day, to give their skin an extra glow for their big day :)

Turmeric's health benefits more modernly have proven to be anti-cancer, anti-Alzheimer's, and anti-inflammatory. It is the Curcumin in turmeric that has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can be an anti-histamine. Turmeric is good for the liver and for lowering cholesterol, as it helps prevent blood clots. Scientists think that turmeric might be one of the reasons why Asians have low Alzheimer's rates in general.

In your cooking, this is also one of those spices where a little bit goes a long way. You should almost never use more than 1/2 to maybe 1 teaspoon of turmeric for family portions of most Indian dishes. Too much turmeric will make your food taste pungent. Also, remember not to get it on your clothes! While turmeric is a great natural food color, get it on your clothes and you'll have a food tie-dye forever!

Two of my own recipes using turmeric include Tandoori Tofu Kebabs and Yellow Hummus and Pita Chips. Give them a try!

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Chunky Autumn Applesauce

chunky autumn applesauce

I used:
3 peeled and diced, medium-sized apples
1.5 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove
4 leaves fresh applemint (what I had fresh in my garden, but use any mint)

My Method:
1. Peel and chop the apples, then let them sit in the water and lime juice for 5 minutes.
2. Cook the mixture along with all other ingredients except sugar over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer until almost all the water evaporates.
3. Add the sugar when there is still some water left, then stir and cook for a few more minutes.
4. Take it off the heat and remove all the clove, cinnamon, and mint. Serve right away. If not eating right away, let it cool down a bit then store in a sterilized jar.

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Sungold Orange Marinara

baked shells with sungold orange marinara

While you enjoy the last of this summer's tomatoes, try this simple marinara. Your family and friends will love it! I used beautiful sungold and other light-colored tomatoes I had received from a friend's garden to naturally sweeten my orange marinara.

sungold, pear & cherry tomatoes

Tomatoes are great source of potassium, iron, fiber, vitamins B and C, and most of all lycopene! They great for your eyes and help prevent macular degenerative diseases.

It is lycopene that gives tomatoes a bright orange to red color, so the more color, the more lycopene. Lycopene has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and help prevent a variety of cancers. Lycopene is more digestible from cooked tomatoes, so with sungolds like I use here, you will benefit a little more by eating them in marinara than you would by eating them raw in a salad. This is because lycopene is a fat soluble, so cooking them with oil or cheese makes them better absorbed by your body.

Sungold is an heirloom tomato variety most widely grown by organic farmers. This time of year you are likely to find organic sungolds in local markets, so you can support local farms, too. This sweet sauce is a real crowd pleaser, so enjoy!

baked shells with sungold orange marinara

I used:
1 pint crushed sungold and other light colored tomatoes
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 small chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed dried basil
5 leaves freshly chopped basil
freshly ground salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (only if the tomatoes are not quite sweet enough)

My method:
1. Crush the tomatoes in food processors, so they are not totally puréed.
2. Over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and bay leaves in the oil.
3. When the onions are translucent (do not let the garlic burn!), add the tomatoes and the dried herbs, salt, and pepper, and stir.
4. Let the sauce cook for about 15-20 minutes, till it comes to a simmer, and keep stirring in the meantime.
5. When finished, the sauce will have thickened slightly as the water from the tomatoes has boiled off. Take the sauce off the heat, then add the fresh basil.
6. Use it right away; or for later use, let it cool first, then store in a airtight jar and refrigerate.

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Making Yogurt at Home

homemade yogurt

Homemade yogurt is milder than the store-bought stuff which turns sour easily, and you can make your yogurt in small quantities, to eat it fresh. In India, you get a side of yogurt with every lunch during hot summer months. Yogurt is great for digestion, and yogurt helps cool your body. This is the reason people drink a yogurt drink called lassi, all over India!

You will need some culture or a bit of yogurt you like as a starter. Once you have a bit of yogurt to start with, after that you can continue using some of your very own homemade yogurt to make more as you like.

making yogurt at home - this one is ready to set

I used:
1 tablespoon of yogurt, to serve as the culture or starter
1 cup of whole milk

My method:
1. Bring the yogurt culture down to room temperature, and beat it to a loose consistency.
2. Bring the milk just up to a boil but do not boil it, then let it cool till it is luke warm, but still above room temperature. (Boil milk for a few minutes if you are not using whole milk.)
3. Dissolve the yogurt culture into the warm milk, in a pot you will set your yogurt in. The best way to do this is to add a few tablespoons of milk first, and make sure no lumps remain or form, then add rest of the milk and stir.
4. Cover the container and store in a dry, warm place -- this is very important. In cooler or damp climates, finding the right spot can be difficult. If you have a stove with a pilot on overnight, leave it in there. An oven, heated for 2 minutes on its lowest temperature, then turned off, can work if it is well sealed and if you do not overheat. I have had success using a heat wrap, or an insulating item like an oven mitten, placing it around the yogurt container to keep the warmth in while the container sits safely in an unused oven. The warmth is what helps milk curdle into a container full of yogurt.
5. It takes about 5 hours for the yogurt to set. This will vary based on temperature, altitude, and amount of yogurt you are making, so check it sometime before and be prepared that it might take a little longer.
6. As soon as the yogurt sets, refrigerate it. The longer your yogurt sits outside after curdling, the tangier it will get, so to keep that wonderful, sweet, fresh yogurt flavor you need to time this step properly. When the yogurt is set, the whey (the watery layer) separates to the top, and the bottom will be set firm. If you tilt the container, you will see that the yogurt is firm but not totally solid (see first photo in this post). Note that the yogurt will solidify more as it refrigerates.

Use the yogurt fresh, of course! When you have almost finished your yogurt, set enough aside to use as a culture for your next batch!

fruit & yogurt bar

These are some of the best of my recipes using yogurt:

1. Mango Shrikhand
2. Mango Power Lassi
3. Tandoori Tofu Kebabs
4. Vanilla Fruit Smoothie
5. Heart Smart Carrot Muffins

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