Sugar Scrub!

Sugar Scrub Stack

Sugar Scrub Stack

Gifting doesn’t get any easier than this: Sugar Scrubs!

They are super simple and quite inexpensive to make. Choose some nice jars to put them in, create a nifty label and you have a great thoughtful gift. Be sure to make a few extra for you to use too!

Basic Sugar Scrubs

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Up to 1/4 cup oil (See Note Below)

Use grape seed, almond, olive or jojoba oil. Don’t use coconut oil as it solidifies in the drain as it cools. Grape seed oil isn’t as “oily” as the others, with olive leaving the “oiliest” feel, which can be quite pleasant on dry skin.

Always be careful walking after using sugar scrubs as the oils can make surfaces slick.

Use your personal preference as to how much oil to add. I prefer only using enough to make the sugar damp and start to hold together as opposed to swimming in oil. I prefer the drier side.

Orange Vanilla Dream Sugar Scrub

Orange Vanilla Dream Sugar Scrub

  • 5-10 drops fragrance of choosing, I like to use essential oils, vanilla extract, almond extract

When adding peppermint oils, be careful about the scrubs coming in contact with sensitive skin, eyes and private parts. It can sting.

  • Up to 3 drops of food coloring, optional

Don’t use more than 3 drops because you don’t want to color your skin! Other choices for colors are raspberry juice, beet juice for a natural product.

Cinnamon Vanilla Sugar Scrub

Cinnamon Vanilla Sugar Scrub

Add the sugar to a bowl, add the oil, fragrance and color. Mix and bottle it up in pretty containers.

Make some labels, glue them on, tie some ribbon and you’ve got a lovely gift. I have several jars wrapped under the tree in “Stacks of Sugar Scrub” ready for the last-minute. Teachers, neighbors, hair stylists, manicurists, hostesses, dog walkers, your mail carrier, cat sitters, even baby sitters would enjoy a sugar scrub.

Lavender Rosemary Sugar Scrub

Lavender Rosemary Sugar Scrub

These are the scents I made:

  • Cinnamon Vanilla
  • Vanilla Orange Dream
  • Calming Lavender Rosemary
  • Peppermint Lift

What’s wonderful is the scent lingers on your skin.

Easy , fun, and any leftovers, you get to use!

Peppermint Lift Sugar Scrub

Peppermint Lift Sugar Scrub

These make great additions to the Spa Basket you have in mind and make nice little thoughtful ditty for those people in your life who could use a little “Thinking of You” gift.

What kind of sugar scrub will you make?

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Coconut Oil – Myth and Reality

Coconut oil has become the latest buzzword in healthy diets these days.

Healthy coconut oil? This goes against everything we have been told for the last 65 years.

English: This is a photo of one of my painting...

I must admit I held a lot of misconceptions about coconut oil until I started doing research and talking to people about using the oil.

If you want to know a very simple analysis of what I found read below.

How to use coconut oil in the kitchen is after the research. If you get bored by the technical stuff, drop down to the kitchen section.

“Coconut oil is high in fat and therefore bad for you.”

The fat found in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid or triglyceride. Most vegetable and seed oils are composed of long-chain fatty acids. The medium-chain fatty acids are easily processed in the liver without insulin spikes. They are easy to break down therefore are used by the liver as energy rather than stored as fat cells like the long-chain fatty acids.

Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, rarely found in nature, lauric acid is known as a ‘miracle’ element due to its ability to

Chemical structure of Lauric acid created with...

Chemical structure of Lauric acid created with ChemDraw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

promote health in the body. The body converts lauric acid into an anti-viral and anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa substance.

(Bacteria, viruses and parasites such as some protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, are major sources of food borne illnesses.)

“Coconut oil is a saturated fat. It can build up in your system and cause clogged arteries, obesity and heart disease.”

Actually the opposite is what is true.

We have been told for the last 65 or so years, all saturated fats are bad for you. Consuming saturated fats can lead to health issues.

The health issue list includes obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, just to name a few.

Some saturated fats occur naturally and some are created, like margarine.

Bombarding  molecules with hydrogen to produce a thick sticky substance has no health benefits whatsoever. Yet this is what has been sold to us in the form of margarine and preached to us by the ad agencies as being “beneficial, healthy, and a better choice than butter. Witness the popularity of things like Country Crock, Parkay and I can’t believe it’s not Butter kind of products.

The created products are full of trans-fats, which we should avoid completely.

The marketing industry convinced us that because coconut oil was solid at room temperature, it should never be consumed. It was used in cosmetics to benefit the skin, but it was shunned as an ingredient in our diets.

Research has discovered these negative myths about coconut oil are not true. Studies have been done on cultures that thrive on coconut oil in their diets to show lower rates of obesity, no cardiovascular disease, and over all better general health than we have in the USA.

Coconut oil helps equalize cholesterol levels by promoting HDL in the blood which helps improve the HDL/LDL ratio. Additionally coconut oil helps promote healthy thyroid function thereby also assisting cholesterol and boosting energy and endurance. A boost to the thyroid can also pump up your metabolism, which is a great benefit!

Consumption of coconut oil helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. It helps blood sugar stabilize, it can help resist fungus and yeast and can improve how the body uses insulin.

Consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, in this 2009 study, demonstrated benefits. In this 12-week study, the women did not gain weight but actually lost stomach fat during the study. Reading this study made me decide to give coconut oil a try.

English: Coconut oil in solid state

Coconut Oil in the Kitchen

Selecting Coconut Oil:

You want extra-virgin, organic coconut oil. Read the labels!

Not all coconut oil is the same. Some is hydrogenated which is what you want to avoid.

Storing Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil has a low melting point (76°F) and a high smoke point (350°F). Store the oil in a cool dry place like a cabinet.

Do not store the coconut oil in the refrigerator.

Do not store it near the stove because it could cause it to melt.

Store it in a cool cabinet away from the stove. It should last about 2 years without going rancid.

But if you are using it, it shouldn’t last that long.

Using Coconut Oil:

Use Coconut Oil to saute or pan-fry your meals and snacks. Popcorn is wonderful popped in a bit of coconut oil.

Saute kale for an incredible flavor! The sweetness of the coconut oil really enhances and tames the bitterness of kale.

Use it to saute any vegetable, chicken, fish, or meat.

Use it just as you would any cooking oil. However because it is solid below 76°F, it is best not used in dressings or marinades. Use a quality grade of olive oil for these items instead.

Here is another use for coconut oil: replace butter or solid shortening (Crisco or margarine)with equal amounts of coconut oil in baking recipes. Your baked goods will be amazing and much healthier.

Does it make everything taste like coconut?

While the oil has the very mild scent of coconut, so far I cannot detect the flavor of coconut when I cook with it. Sometimes things may taste a bit “sweeter” but not like sweet as if you added sugar.

Just an enhancement of the natural sweetness that is already there.

Last night I marinated some chicken breasts in a spicy “Cockalacky” sauce which is made with sweet potatoes. After the marinade, the breasts were breaded in panko and pan-fried in coconut oil until done.

The oil really brought the flavor of the sweet potato used in the marinade, such a nice flavor surprise!

While I have added coconut oil to our diets, we still use other oils as well. I enjoy the flavors of various seed and nut oils in salad dressings. Additionally the various oils also have other health benefits.

This is not about giving up other oils but about making smarter choices, more informed choices.

The key thing to remember fat is fat.

Just because it is coconut oil does not mean you can consume mass quantities of it. As with all fats, use it in moderation.

For the next 12 weeks, I am going to get 2 tablespoons a day of coconut oil into my diet. I am looking forward to seeing the results. Hopefully my skin and hair will not suffer winter dryness, my tummy fat will start to disappear and I will feel great. I have a physical in soon so it will be interesting to compare the numbers from last year to this.

Summer 2013 Update

This summer I heard of using coconut oil instead of sunscreen. Personally, I think that’s taking it a bit too far. I love using coconut oil on my skin, it feels so good but instead of sunscreen? “They” may say that coconut is naturally SPF 30 but I think I’ll back it up with some SPF 50 just to be sure.

Before foregoing coconut oil for sunscreen, ask your dermatologist their professional opinion!

Skin cancer is no laughing matter and not worth a risk.

Use all fats in moderation, including coconut oil.

While I have lost 13 pounds so far, my goal is 10 more, it isn’t all because of coconut oil. It’s more about making better choices.

Do you use coconut oil? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts and experiences so we can all learn something from each other.

Coconuts

Bob’s Paleo Bars

Teaching culinary school certainly has perks. One of the best perks is everyone around you has an interest in some aspect of food. Some grow great gardens, some make cookies, share fish they caught, bread, pickles, wines, liquors, there is always something going around.

A favorite activity for me is taking part in recipe development, especially in the cookie department. While attempting to come up with the “World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” it became obvious that ‘world’s best’ is a matter of perception.

Bob’s “Good Health Balls”

Some like cookies crunchy, some soft, others cake like. Then there are nuts or no nuts, milk chocolate or what degree of dark chocolate; 50% 75% 80% cocoa? Or sweeteners, honey, sugar or agave?

I hope you can start getting the picture that “world’s best” is only world’s best to that persons mouth. Certainly their taste buds aren’t speaking for everyone in the world.

Bob is our division director and quite an interesting person. He is very health conscious, an avid practitioner and teacher of Yoga (I don’t know what kind) and is careful with what he puts into his body.

Bob is the person responsible for getting me started in baking our own bread again. He gave me a bit of his sourdough starter last year and I have kept it going and feeding without any issues. The starter makes great bread!

He found a recipe for “Paleo Bars” somewhere that he began playing with to create his own version of what he calls “Good Health Balls”

Perhaps the name needs a bit of work, but the bars are delicious. I don’t think Bob would have appreciated a post title:

“Bob’s Good Health Balls”

Nope, not going there.

They go great with coffee or tea!

Good Health Balls 

  • 1 cup               toasted chopped almonds
  • 1 cup               toasted chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup             toasted chopped sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup             toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup             toasted pistachios
  • ¼ cup             hemp seeds
  • 1 cup               chopped dried dates
  • ½ cup             shredded coconut
  • 1 cup               almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon    cinnamon
  • ½ cup             chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • ¼ cup                almond butter (Other nut butters can also be used)
  • ¼ cup                coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons     pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large               eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon  organic blue agave

Pre-heat oven to 350°F while making the mixture.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, hemp seeds, figs, coconut, almond flour, cinnamon, and chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla, eggs, and agave. Whisk together well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough is moist and blended.

Form the dough into 1-ounce balls, lightly press onto a silicone or parchment paper-lined cook sheet.

A 1-ounce ball is 2 tablespoons. Make the balls all the same size, the weight isn’t as important as even size. If you adjust the size larger or smaller, you will also need to adjust baking time.

Use a small muffin tin lined with cup-cake liners instead of a baking sheet, if you like.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Balls will lightly browned on top.

Makes approximately 36  1-ounce morsels.

Notes: 

  • The dough balls can be successfully frozen.  This allows you to enjoy as many treats as you like.
    Store unbaked dough in a zip-lock freezer bag.

    Bake frozen balls for approximately 20 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven.
  • If you have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, try their 72% dark chocolate.
  • Costco is a great source for hemp seeds

To your health!