Better believe it’s butter!

I ran out of margarine, and basically kept an empty Becel container in the fridge.  In my head I could probably scrape a teaspoon out of the smears left in the container.  I kept forgetting to buy more every time I went to the grocery store.

I had a 454g/2 Cup brick of butter in the fridge.  I always have some on hand for baking.  Lets face it, nothing tastes like real butter.  It seems like a cruel joke that everything that tastes great, was full of fat, therefore bad for us.  Fat-free versions were dry and tasteless.  Now the internet is full of articles claiming the opposite idea of what most of us grew up with:  Margarine is now bad, and butter is better!  This just seems to make sense … the more natural and less processed something is, the easier it is for your body to process.  There were lessons learned with the “anal leakage” side effects of the synthetic fat, Olestra.

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This brings me to the latest post.  I have butter, but it doesn’t spread like margarine.  Trying to spread cold butter on toast, is like trying to spackle drywall compound on a wet, sponge.  So I did some googling and it appears everyone is looking for a similar food hack.  I found this site to be the most useful, but decided to modify it to require less elbow grease.  I chose Avocado oil because I find it has no taste or flavour as Olive oil.  It also happens to have a higher smoking point so I prefer using it for cooking, especially with my cast iron skillet.  You can buy it at Costco so you get a 1L bottle for about $10.50.

IMG_5609Instead of mashing the butter with a fork, I left it to sit on the counter to warm/soften up a bit.  I added 2/3 cup of avocado oil, 1 cup of butter cut into cubes into the 16 ounce Ninja Master Prep Pro container  I pulsed it and blended it till it looked like it liquefied.  I found it looked a little too runny with too much oil.  I blended another 1/4 cup of butter and found that it had that creamy texture I was looking for. IMG_5611 I mixed the rest of the brick of butter, with less than 2/3 cup of oil.  I scraped the butter out of the Ninja with a rubber spatula and spread it out in the old Becel container.  I popped it in the fridge to set and couldn’t wait to see if it would spread like margarine!

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Is this “healthier” than margarine?  I think in moderation, it’s about as healthy as all natural ice cream vs frozen yogurt.  Over time it’s a little better for you because it’s more natural and I know the ingredients I used in my blend.  Like everything, if you eat a tub, you will become a tub.

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DIY Lactose-free, Probio, Yogurt

I love yogurt!  I found myself spending $10/week eating 1L of it.  I would buy the larger tubs, divide it among my reusable containers, add my own fruit and voila!  Cheaper single servings of yogurt with fresh berries instead of sugary jam caked to the bottom.  I found that a lot of smoothies I wanted to make also called for 1 cup of yogurt.  Why does trying to be healthy have to be so expensive?  I set out to find a way to make my own probiotic yogurt.  Most probiotic yogurt have enough good bacteria in it to help those of us who are lactose-intolerant, to digest the lactose.  To make things a little more easier on the digestive system, I decided to go 100% lactose free, probio!  I was largely inspired by the instructions of this blogger on how to make your own yogurt in a slow cooker.  Why spend the money on a yogurt maker when a slow cooker will do just fine?  What you’ll need:

  • Lactase enzyme drops (Walmart, pharmacy department is usually the cheapest place to get them)
  • 2L of 2% milk (if you like thick yogurt, you need more milk fat)
  • Fresh probiotic, store bought yogurt/Yogurt starter (I have tried a greek yogurt and used Yogourment probiotic bought from a healthfood store with good results)
  • Slow cooker
  • Thermometer (Wireless one works best, you’ll understand why.  You can get one at BB&B with a 20% off coupon)

First thing you need to do, is get the lactose out of your 2L of milk.  Following the directions on the drops, you just pop in about 10-15 drops of lactase enzymes into your 2L and put it back in the fridge over night for 24 hours so the enzymes can break down the milk sugars or lactose. IMG_2155The next day, you pour your milk into a slow cooker and set it on high to kill any existing bacteria in the milk that would compete with the bacteria in your starter.  It would start a war where no one wins and you end up wasting your time and 2L of milk.  I have done this in a 6quart oval crock pot which works well with the lid sitting on the braided, digital thermometer wire.   For the Breville Fast Slow Cooker you have to remove the silicone gasket from the lid in order for the lid to close on the cable without damaging it.  The Breville refuses to cooperate if the lid isn’t closed and twisted shut.  Set the thermometer alarm to 83 degrees C (or 181 degrees F) and walk away with the remote portion so you can continue to do what you want for the next couple of hours without having to check on it incessantly.  You don’t want it to come to a rolling boil and it would suck if it boiled over. Once it has reached the magical, bacteria killing temperature you have to cool it down.  WTF?  Yes, you need to cool it down to a comfortable temperature of around 43 degrees C (110 degrees F) for your new bacIMG_2156teria to thrive.  Tossing them into a hot bath too soon will upset the poor little buggers.  Take the pot out of the cooker and let it sit on the stove so it can cool on all sides.  I usually put the lid back on the cooker and leave it on low to keep it warm.   Luckily you have a wireless thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature, while you go do something else.

IMG_2159Once it has reached the magical,non-bacteria killing temperature, you can skim the dried milk skin off the top.  Take a cup (two soup laddles)  of your 43 degree C milk and mix it in with your  yogurt starter.  Then whisk this mixture in with the rest of your warm milk.  If you are doing this with your Yogourmet for the first time, just whisk the packet in.  Put your pot back in the cooker.  Don’t forget to put  the gasket back on the Breville’s lid.  Twist the lid on, wrap the whole shebang in a beach towel.  For good measure, I put the whole thing in a collapsible cooler to keep it warm and snug for 12 hours

The next day, you’ll open the cooler, unwrap the towel, twist off the lid, and dip a spoon into the pot and uncover the magical world of curdled milk and bacteria that we have grown to know and love as yogurt.  Give it a good stir and put it in the fridge.  So for the cost of 2L of milk, around $4 or less, you get 2L of yogurt!  How great is that?

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Washing my mouth out

Growing up, my mom always threatened to wash my mouth out with soap.  I personally don’t think I was ever a bad kid but I’m a little biased.  Being young and curious, I didn’t understand what the fuss was in this empty threat.  After watching the importance of brushing your teeth on Sesame street, I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I went to the bathroom, rubbed my toothbrush on a bar of Ivory soap … yes, I washed my own mouth out with soap.  I taught myself a valuable lesson.  If you’re gonna wash your mouth out, it should be with something refreshing.

Fast forward 30 years … I have been using Listerine Zero and pretty content with it.  I was running out and wanted to pick up another vat from Costco.  Costco being Costco, stopped stocking items I like.  I checked out natural alternatives.  Tom’s of Maine makes good products but their mouthwash is $10 for a little bottle!  What the hell Tom?

I looked up mouthwash in my Reader’s Digest Homemade book for a recipe.  I wasn’t completely sold on what was in there.  Why would I use peroxide in my mouth?  Is it safe if some of it went down my throat?  Why would I use vodka for an antiseptic mouthwash?  What a waste of vodka or some other good alcohol!

There are a wide range of online recipes.  I decided to mix a combo of RD Homemade and online:

  • 1 cup/250mL of Distilled waterIMG_0149
  • 4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin
  • 5 drops of tea tree oil
  • 5 drops of peppermint oil

I poured all these ingredients that I already have on hand into an empty Listerine bottle.  It’s a 250mL bottle that fits perfectly in my medicine cabinet so why not reuse?  Put the cap on and shake it up.

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Voila!  What I call Zero Listerine!  Again, it’s super salty on the taste buds but who cares?  You’re not swallowing it.  Take it from me, it’s a hell of a lot better than Ivory!  When you swish it around and spit it out, it leaves your mouth feeling quite refreshed.  Depending on where you find your ingredients, this won’t even cost you $0.50!  I can certainly get use to salty swishing for that price.

 

INGREDIENTUNIT COSTCOST/AMOUNT USED
4L Distilled Water$1.25$0.08
Baking Soda$1.00$0.04
Vegatable Glycerin$10.99$0.12
Tea Tree Oil$8.24$0.05
Peppermint Oil$8.00$0.05
TOTAL$0.34

Teeth Aren’t Cheap

No one enjoys going to the dentist.  Yet no one seems to enjoy flossing, brushing  properly, and basically taking good care of them.  For years I was convinced that every checkup would reveal yet another cavity.  Some dental assistants/hygienists would tell me that I had weak enamel.  I was determined to clean up my act – and my teeth of course.  I wanted the satisfaction of having the hygienist say, “Fantastic, I don’t need to scrape today.”

I started flossing more frequently.  Especially after having a steak/meat that would definitely find it’s way in between my teeth.  I also tried using Listerine more, but it felt like tossing acid in my mouth.  It’s clinically proven to be the best antiseptic for your mouth so I reluctantly complied.

I have a book called Reader’s Digest Homemade.  The selling point was that it had recipes for making HUNDREDS of products you use everyday!  That sounds like a money saver to me.  I also wanted to phase out commercial chemicals that are in products we use everyday.  Not just for cleaning, but for our “health”.  I had discovered the Environmental Working Group Cosmetic Database and was shocked to learn a lot of the skin care products I was using may be causing my allergy sensitivities.  I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, save money, save my health.

The first recipe that I tried was making my own toothpaste.  It seemed pretty easy.  All you need is:

  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin
  • 6 drops of tea tree oil
  • 6 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • 4 drops of peppermint oil
  • 7 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

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All these ingredients can be found in natural food stores.  After many trials and tribulations I found that trying to get it in a squeezable bottle wasn’t worth the effort.  The ones from the dollar store are practically disposable.  The glycerin and baking soda tends to separate making it challenging to “squeeze”.  So I found a small glass Lock & Lock container, that fits perfectly in my medicine cabinet.  I think it’s the 130mL, but it doesn’t say.

Glycerin, is very viscous.  I tend to mix all the liquids, glycerin, and oils together first.  I add in the salt and stir that in.

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Once that has been stirred in, I start adding the baking soda.  I started off with 7 tablespoons, but now I don’t even bother to measure.  I basically keep adding baking soda till I get a nice thick consistency that I prefer.  If you find that it’s too thick for you, you can add some warm water to make it a little thinner.

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There you have it!  Home made toothpaste!  It takes a bit of getting use to.  I found it super salty, but it’s not like you have to swallow it.  Adding some more peppermint may help.  The glycerin will always end up separating to the top, and the baking soda on the bottom.  I recommend using these cosmetic spatulas for stirring, and applying on your toothbrush.  It will help avoid contaminating your toothpaste full of bacteria by dipping your toothbrush in twice a day.

I have been doing this for a couple of years now.  Along with flossing every night, brushing with this toothpaste and using Listerine Zero twice a day I haven’t had a cavity since!  My hygienist said she wishes all her clients were like me because she hardly has to scrape any plaque off.  I said, “But you’re still scraping!”  She said that she has to go along, scrape a little in order to check each tooth.  She said the little she does scrape, hardly anything comes off which means I’m a good brusher.  I also found that my teeth are less sensitive from sugar, and chewing hot/cold foods.  My lips are also no longer chapped.  I could never live a day without having a stick of lip balm in my pocket.  I carry a different stick in my car, purse, and my desk at work because they were practically necrotic.  I’m convinced that the plaque fighting, teeth whitening chemicals listed on EWG for toothpaste is directly responsible for the dry skin all these years.  I also like the convenience of being able to refill my own tooth paste whenever without having to panic and run to a store.

If I do have to travel anywhere, I do find it more convenient to use Arm & Hammer or Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.  Green Beaver makes an all natural toothpaste as well, but it feels very chalky, but that just maybe me.  They can be quite expensive.  On average, you’d be looking to pay around $5 for natural toothpaste.

Here is a breakdown of how much it costs to make your own:  

INGREDIENTUNIT COSTCOST/AMOUNT USED
Baking Soda$1$0.21
Sea Salt$7.99$0.05
Eucalyptus Oil$8.99$0.09
Tea Tree Oil$8.00$0.08
Vegetable Glycerin$10.99$1.39
TOTAL$1.83

Depending on where you buy your ingredients, it can be made cheaper.

Cauling all recipes!

So The Vitamix, Broccoli Cheese sup recip said you could also use cauliflower instead of broccoli.  I received a HUGE head of cauliflower and used half of it in my breakfast smoothies.  Say what?  Yeah, that’s right, I was running out of time before I fly out for the holidays so I threw a bunch into my smoothies:

  • 2 cups of rice milk
  • 1/2 cup of home made yogurt
  • a handful of cauliflower florets
  • half a mango
  • an orange, peeled
  • 2 bananas (had a bunch going bad)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (I just shake a bunch in without measuring now)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (added afterwards to take the bite out of the raw cauliflower)

I felt that oatmeal and chia seeds weren’t necessary because there seems to be enough fiber in the mango and cauliflower.  This mixture also generated 6 cups of smoothies versus the usual 4 cups.

Now, what are we gonna do with the other half of that albatross?  The broccoli and cheese Vitamix recipe mentioned cauliflower could be used instead.  I ran out of rice milk, and with upcoming holiday travels, I decided not to go through the process of steaming rice.  I figured I may just use water, but realized I needed something to add a creamy texture.  I rummaged through the fridge and found – MUSHROOMS!  They were part of my organic basket delivery, they didn’t sprout from spores in my fridge.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 white mushrooms, washed
  • 2 mini Light Babybels
  • half a head of cauliflower, steamed
  • 2 teaspoons of onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch

I placed the head of cauliflower in the Pampered chef microwaveable pot, added someIMG_0001 water to cover the bottom and covered it.  I microwaved it on high for 3 minutes.  While the cauliflower was steaming, I decided to blend the water and mushrooms because it’s supposed to be a substitute for milk.  I dumped the rest of the ingredients in and brought the variable speed up to 10, then let is spin on high for 6 minutes. some salt and pepper to taste, and it turned out to taste really good!

Green soup?

Another reason why I enjoy my Vitamix is not only is it a time saver, but it  has recipes for single people.  I have another organic basket coming, but I still have broccoli in the fridge from 2 weeks ago (kept in Tupperware Fridgemates so they’re still good).  It’s a chilly -11 degree Celsius kinda day so soup would certainly hit the spot!  Based on the Vitamix recipe book I decided to try the broccoli cheese soup again.  The last time I did it, I took the lazy way out and didn’t bother steaming the broccoli.  I also made the mistake of using 1/4 of a raw onion instead of the 1/4 teaspoon of minced onion (I assume dehydrated flakes of onion).  I’m a self proclaimed culinary genius so I also figured I’d toss in a clove or two of garlic.  It was my first stab at making a soup and it tasted AWFUL.  I choked most of it down anyway because I hate wasting food.  The garlic and onions liquefied into a mouth numbing taste I can’t describe.  Raw broccoli isn’t something you should dive into.  So my second attempt:

  • A big stem of broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of the rice milk I made (yay me!)
  • 2 Mini Babybel Light
  • 2 teaspoons of onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon of corn starch
  • salt and pepper to taste

I took my Pampered chef micro cooker, added enough water to cover the bottom, put the broccoli in and microwaved it for 2 minutes.  (That’s how lazy I was before.)  During that two minutes I poured in my milk, unwrapped my Babybels.  Once the broccoli was done I Vitamixed it with the milk to break up the stem.  Once that turned into liquid, I threw in the Babybels, corn starch and onion soup mix.  I turned the variable speed up to 10, flipped the high speed switch, and set a timer for 6 minutes.  During that time I tidied up my minimal mess.

It looks like a nasty colour of green, but it turned out to be tasty.  I will most likely do it again tomorrow ’cause it was so quick and easy.

Milking it

I have an intolerance to milk.  I hate to say it, but I am in fact … a lactard.  I really hate that noun.  As a petite, Asian, my doctor has always shown concern that I get enough calcium through supplements and milk substitutes.

The cost of milk seems to be rising, and lactose free milk is even more expensive.  I had been buying a 6 pack of soy milk from Costco for $8.99.  Whenever it would go on sale for $6.99, I’d stock up.  It’s shelf stable so it can be bought in bulk.

I was at my local natural food store and saw a booklet about eating right for my specific blood type.  I have suffered from allergies all my life so I have always been willing to try anything.  People have tried elimination diets, so why not?  I would never know where to start.  One of the first things it said was that I should be avoiding everything soy!  I recall reading an article that soy has a chemical in it that mimics estrogen.  At first I thought it shouldn’t be a concern for me, but some other articles mentioned that too much estrogen can throw you out of whack.  Given my high stress/anxiety level I figured I will lay off the soy milk and see how I feel.  I started buying almond milk from Costco instead.  A guy on FB mentioned he was trying to find an almond milk without carrageenan.  Again, health risks, and it’s on my avoid for my blood type list.  I couldn’t win.  I’ve tried rice milk before, and wasn’t crazy about the watery consistency.

I had bought a Vitamix to liquefy my foods that were going bad in the fridge.  I hate to waste food, to the point where I’m willing to drink it!  Finally, I get to my point.  There’s a recipe in the Vitamix book for making your own milk substitutes.  Rice seems like the cheapest ingredient to use rather than almonds or sesame seeds.  I may try almonds later, since sesame is yet another food I should avoid for my blood type.

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice (I used basmati because it has a low glycemic index)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Splenda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put the lid on, turn on the Vitamix on variable speed 1, cranked it up to 10 pretty quickly, flipped the “high speed” switch and let it spin for 2 minutes.  I was surprised that there wasn’t a single chunk of rice to be found.  It tasted a little weird because the Vitamix blades spinning at high speed for 2 minutes starts to heat up.  It can make hot soup in 6 minutes!  I had made a lot of rice for my stir fry lunches so I was able to make 2L to keep in the fridge.   I was also able to make 2 cups to have with dinner, and another 2 cups for my breakfast smoothie.  Essentially, I was able to make 12 cups without frying my Vitamix!  I’m sure you can do this with any blender, but it would probably take a little longer.  I know when I had a Magic Bullet, it would smell like it was burning after a few pulses to make a smoothie.

Sure, Vitamix is pricey.   I waffled about buying one for about a year.  I did my research and found the best deal to be Costco (US).  It comes with a 7 year warranty and I would say that I have been putting it through it’s paces since I got it.  Given my TMJ, recent concussion, and motivation to consume all my organic produce before it goes bad, I drink at least 2 cups of liquefied food each day.

 

Irish Stew, Don’t Mind If I Do!

After a quick search I had versions of all the ingredients for this Irish Lamb Stew Recipe.

1 1/2 pounds thickly sliced bacon, diced
6 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut
into 2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
4 cups chicken boullion
4 cups diced carrots
2 large onions, cut into bite-size pieces
3 potatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Instead of “real” bacon I’m going with turkey bacon.  I picked up a 3 pack from Costco for $11.99.  Using my digital scale, 1.5 pounds, is about 2 packs of bacon.  I also only had 700g of lamb, instead of the >2100g/6 pounds this recipe called for.  I’m not sure how the heck Danny O’Flaugherty is able to prep this stew in 20 minutes, but I’d love to know his secrets.  I’m thinking he has a robot to peel his veggies (note to self, invent culinary, veggie peeling robot) and bought a better cut of meat so he didn’t have to spend a crazy amount of time trimming the fat.

I tried the sauté function on my new gadget.  The turkey bacon was done in minutes.  I

Saute setting

scooped that out and put in the lamb.  It browned up in around 5 minutes in the turkey, bacon juice.  Dumped in the rest of the ingredients.

To convert a recipe into a pressure cooker recipe, you should reduce the cook time by 70%.  Doing some “fancy math”: 2.25*(1-.70)*60min =40.5 minutes   Let’s see if we can cut down the 2.25 hour cook time down to 40 minutes.

*40 minutes elapses*  Tada!  I think a lot of the potatoes and onions couldn’t take the pressure and were vapourized in the making of this stew.

Irish stew completeIt certainly smells great.  The taste – pretty good.  If I were to do this again I would add only 1 pack of turkey bacon.  Half the lamb still turned out pretty meaty in my opinion.  I would certainly lay off the salt out of the mixture.  I think the turkey bacon had enough sodium in it to make my face pucker.  I’m pounding back a lot of water here just to put moisture back in my mouth.  I would also add in more potatoes.