Bourbon Ginger Snap Punch

Truth be told, I’m not really a big drinker these days. Even more so, I am not a big drinker of the Bourbon; however, this is one of my go to, can’t go wrong, always delicious party punch recipes. I have made this a few times now and I am always stoked on the way that it turns out. It’s not real sweet, or overwhelmed with bourbon flavor, and is primarily made with water, which somehow makes me feel better about it than a lot of other punch drinks.

INGREDIENTS:
2 quarts water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup honey
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 cups orange juice
4 cups pear nectar
1 liter bourbon (I use Bulleit)
2 lemons sliced (garnish)
Ice for serving

DIRECTIONS:
In a large pot, 2 quarts water, lemon juice, honey, and ginger. Bring these to a boil and let simmer on medium for 5 minutes. Strain into a large bowl and let cool. (Depending on time constraints, you may want to put some ice in a large bowl and set the smaller bowl with the lemon ginger syrup in it and stir to assist in it cooling faster.) Transfer the cooled lemon-ginger syrup into a pitcher or large bowl for serving. Add orange juice, pear nectar, bourbon and lemon slices. Serve over ice.

(Original recipe can be found here)

Homemade Deodorant

I should have known that it would come to this; It was only a matter of time. $18.50 for some chemical-free pitt paste is crazy business, especially when I have this huge 13.5 pound bag of baking soda that I bought on accident a few months ago when making bath bombs. I looked around at the ingredients on a variety of natural deodorants and found that most of them are made with basically the same ingredients, with the main difference being whether or not to add beeswax. Of course, the best part of making your own deodorant is deciding what smells you want to add, so you’ll want to experiment with that on your own. Here is the base recipe that I used:

Makes approximately 10 ounces

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup beeswax
Essential Oils
4 3-ounce jars (I used these Weck jars)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Mix together arrowroot powder and baking soda.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut oil and beeswax until beeswax has been incorporated.

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir. Add essential oils. As they cool they will continue to thicken, so you will want to work a bit fast so that the mixture can be put in the jars easily.

Just by looking at it, it seems like the right consistency. I am going to give a jar to the neighbor, so we will see if I have her coming back and begging for more (hah!). For this first lot I used sage, bergamot, black pepper, tea tree, and grapefruit essential oils… since that is the combination that is used in the deodorant I currently buy. The only thing I will say about natural deodorant is that it is not an anti-perspirant; you WILL sweat, but it wont stink. This took me a bit to get used to, but now it is just the way that it is and it doesn’t bother me. Some people have issues with rashes with baking soda, so obviously this wouldn’t be the recipe for you. In the future, I look forward to playing with various combinations, pending on what mood i’m in. If you’re not sure what to use, you cant go wrong by going to Whole Foods and finding a premixed blend like NOW essential oils “Cheer up Buttercup” and using that. I’ll update this post in a month or so after I have tried it for awhile. As for now, I call it a win.

The Bestest Vegan Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

In truth, I was tempted to not write “vegan” in the title of these chocolate chip cookies because they are amazing, vegan or otherwise. This is another recipe that comes from my boss (and friend) and just knocks it out of the park. Matt and I have been on this fitness kick and haven’t been eating much of this sort of thing, but if i’m going to feel guilty about something, these are worth it. The only drawback about these is that you do need to plan slightly ahead, because the dough needs to refrigerate for 12-24 hours. On the plus, prep time is minimal, so you just have to know how to ignore the pile of cookie dough in the fridge all day… ahem…

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 dark chocolate chips (double check the ingredients to make sure they’re vegan if thats important to you)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup olive/canola/grapeseed oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
Coarse grain sea salt (garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the flour mixture and toss to coat. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugars briskly with the oil and water until smooth and incorporated. Add vanilla. Stir. Add the wet and dry ingredients until combined, do not over mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours. (NO CHEATING!) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two pans with foil (spray with a little olive oil) or parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator and use an ice cream scoop (or spoon) to portion into 2 inch balls. Freeze the balls for 10 minutes; this will help them retain their shape better when baking. Sprinkle the balls of dough with coarse sea-salt and bake 12-13 minutes until golden. Careful not to overbake.

 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Making vanilla extract at home is almost unworthy of a blog post because it is so easy, but bottling and gifting it is so cute, I couldn’t resist. This year, I decided to make a bunch for my work family and friends that I usually don’t give gifts to, but always wish I had, and it worked out perfectly.

Makes 15 (4 oz) Bottles

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 lb Vanilla Beans
1.75 Liters Alcohol  (Vodka, Bourbon, Brandy, or Rum)
Patience (2 months worth)

(If you aren’t making this in bulk, or making a different quantity,  I’d plan on using 3 or 4 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces of alcohol.)

EQUIPMENT:
2 quart-sized jars with lids
Scissors
15 (4 oz) bottles
Avery brown kraft labels & printer
Small Funnel

DIRECTIONS:
Separate the vanilla beans into two equal sized piles, one pile for each jar. Using your scissors, split the vanilla beans lengthwise, leaving the top 1/2 inch connected at the top. Place the vanilla beans in the jars and fill to the top with alcohol (I used Trader Joe’s “Vodka of the Gods”. While I know you can use any 80 proof alcohol, from what I can tell, Vodka seems to be the standard.)

Close off the jar and store in a cool dark place. This should live in your cabinet for at least a month, giving it a shake about once a week, before you plan on bottling it.

BOTTLING:
Once the vanilla extract is ready, open the small 4 oz jars and place 2-3 of the vanilla beans directly in each. This will allow the extract to continue to infuse, as well as allow the user to add small bits of vodka to the bottle to create an “everlasting” vanilla extract. Of course, it wont last forever, and the beans will run out of oomfuh… but we will just call it everlasting because that just makes it seem so much cooler. Using a small funnel, add the extract to each of the bottles. Some people prefer to strain it, but that just seems like crazy talk, so don’t do that. That’s like removing the goldflakes from the Goldschlager…

LABELING:
I created my labels in Photoshop directly and printed them onto the Avery kraft paper; however, there are many free sites that exist for label creation. There are even some free templates available that can be customized, if you’re not savvy in design. If you’re really at a loss, I have my label saved in Photoshop. While I won’t create a totally new custom label for you, I am willing to update mine with your info and send you the jpg, if you’re really good at begging and tell me I’m pretty.

One last note: I’d recommend not putting the labels on the bottles until they have been filled, or they might not look so pretty in the end. 

COST:
Bottles: $15.75
Vodka: $10.99
Vanilla Beans: $54.00
Labels: $5.29
Total: $86.03
Total per bottle: $5.74

Cheap, good quality, and pretty… just like me.

 

Kennedy meets Kermit

Kennedy meets Kermit YouTube play
Matt made this a video of Kennedy chatting with Kermit the Frog and sent it to me while I was at work. It had me laughing so hard. I love Mickey the most.

Spicy Ginger & Coconut Stew (v)

Something about overcast days that just scream stew. Seeing as though I don’t eat meat, and I try to avoid large amounts of potato, I had to come up with something that still satisfied the cravings; I’m pretty proud of this one. I have made it unapologetically twice over the last two weeks, and warmed it as leftovers for myself a handful of times after that. You can easily spice it up or keep it mild, and this easily makes plenty to eat tomorrow. On with it…

Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1 med. red onion (chopped)
1.5 lbs brussel sprouts (halved or quartered if large)
2 tbsp ginger (minced)
4-5 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large sweet potato (peeled and diced 1/2 inch)
1 zucchini (green beans are good too)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 can coconut milk
1 can chickpeas (rinsed/drained)
Juice of 1 small lime
Zest of 1/2 lime
Salt/pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
In a large pot, saute onions in oil until lightly brown. Add brussel sprouts and cook on med-high until most have some brown on them (4-5 minutes). Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper and cook for another minute. Add the vegetable broth, zucchini (quartered and sliced), and sweet potato and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add chickpeas and lime zest and reduce heat to simmer. After about 5 minutes, add lime juice and coconut milk. If you’re like me, add a shit ton of salt and pepper. Simmer a few more minutes to allow all the flavors combine. Thats it.

Poison Apples

I’ve been wanting to try to make candy poison apples ever since I saw this post on pinterest. I haven’t made candy or caramel since high school, and I thought I might blow up the house, but the whole process was actually much simpler than I anticipated.

INGREDIENTS:
6 large unwaxed apples or 12 smaller ones (or a mix of the two)
Bamboo sticks / Popsicle sticks /tongue depressors / real sticks / pokey-things / whatever
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Black gel food coloring
Arsenic (optional) (I KID I KID!)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Wrap a few pieces of saran wrap around a baking sheet and stab innocent apples mercilessly.

2. In a medium pot, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup and stir over medium heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. The easiest way to check this is to dip your finder in the pot every few minutes and rub your finger and thumb together. Once you no longer feel the grit of the sugar, add a few drops of the black food coloring and turn the stove on high.

3. Allow the mixture to boil until it reaches the hard crack stage (150°c/310°F). You’ll need to check the temperature frequently with a thermometer. The minute the temp reaches 310°F, move the pot to another burner (that is off) and let it sit for 1-2 minutes, just long enough for the bubbles to disappear.

4. Carefully twirl the apples into the tar pit. You will need to move somewhat fast here because the mixture will harden as it cools. Place them back on the saran wrapped cookie sheet and point and laugh at your kids for having to wait 30 minutes for them to cool.

5. Wrap em’ with some saran wrap and some flair and call it a day.

There are a few things I might do differently next time:

  • Realize I am making candy apples and not caramel apples. When I saw the recipe initially, my brain told me that toffee and caramel were the same thing. Wrong-zilla. I should have caught this when I saw I was bringing the temperature to a hard-crack stage, but my soul still said caramel. In my opinion, caramel apples are for eating, and candy apples are for looking pretty, but that is just me. I can’t chew ice either, if that tells you anything.
  • Definitely wait for the bubbling to come to a minimum. I have a few that have some bubbles on them. No biggie, just trying to get pro-status.
  • Make Kennedy eat hers at the dinner table, and chop most of the candy off. Seriously, how much dog hair on a candy apple will it take to make you gag? What is the likeliness that you’ll have to cut this out of your toddlers hair if you fail to make a ponytail? What the hell was I thinking?

Finding The Best Natural Deodorant

Over the last month, I have put my pits (and possibly my coworkers) through the ringer, and I’m not sorry. I have been wanting to make the switch to a natural deodorant for quite some time, but have been holding on to these preconceived ideas about natural deodorant; namely, that it doesn’t work and I am going to smell like a woman named Harmony Moon, with long hairy pits, on tour with Phish, and no shower. Kinda, sorta, not really – but kinda. In truth, I don’t know really what I expected, but I didn’t expect the outcome to be so positive. Because there are so many brands out there, I based my brands on those that had a lot of good reviews already. I have never wore natural deodorant before and I don’t (or didn’t) know any of my friends that used the stuff. So really, I winged it. In order to be fair, I tried each brand for a whole week, regardless if it worked or not. This is what I found:

1. Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant (Bergamot + Lime)

Initial Impression: Packaging looks like any other mass market deodorant; however, the company also sells the little glass pots that are much cuter, as long as you don’t mind rubbing your pits (I don’t). I immediately loved the smell, not Pine-soly, but fresh. Happy. The smell lasted throughout the day, and the application was fairly smooth, though the immediate slippery-wet feeling after it is first applied took a bit of getting use to.

Size: 3.25 ounces
Cost: $10.24

Final thoughts: Overall, this deodorant set the bar really high. I bought this deodorant first and naturally defaulted to the stick option, but I think I will try the jar next time after using some of the other jar brands. I didn’t have any issues with sensitivity, though Matt tried it and had a reaction (inferior genes); Schmidt’s does offer sensitive skin formulas as well.  I put the deodorant on in the morning, and reapplied it after my workout, but never smelled bad. I will say, I think the wetness absorption claim is a lie. False. Completely untrue. While working out, I was very aware of the copious amount of liquid coming from my pits, it just smelled… good. I don’t know that I would recommend wearing this if it is really hot out and you were in a silk shirt or something (you dummy), but I would say that holds true for anything without an antiperspirant, natural or otherwise.  I was actually a bit sad to move on after this one, but I can’t wait to try some of their other fragrances.

Overall grade: 9/10

2. Primal Pit Paste (Thyme + Lemongrass)

Initial Impression: Packaging was nice, not good nor bad, but the smell was definitely memorable. While I love lemongrass and thyme, this was much; the stick smelled like it belonged in an overly fragrant candle and not in my pits. It didn’t smell bad necessarily, I just smelled like it needed to be softened. In addition, it kind of feels like a rough cat tongue as its applied.

Size: 2 ounces
Cost: $12.45

Final thoughts: I didn’t love it, but I do think it might be worth trying a different fragrance. If you like the smell, then I would say that it was mostly effective at masking any unpleasant odor, though at the end of the day the lemongrass might have been more of a lemonish weed. I did feel like it was a bit sticky for the first 5-10 minutes of wearing it, but that seemed to go away. I did not have any issues with rash or irritation, just simply that it was rough going on and I was happy when the week was over. Bleh.

Overall grade: 6/10

3. Fat and the Moon

Initial impression: This was my first experience with using a deodorant cream, and it took some getting use to, but I actually like it. I like that I feel like I can massage it in, instead of just rubbing it on the surface of my skin. I think the packaging is cute and I appreciate that the art feels like someone sat and doodled a logo, instead of a more impersonal one. I guess that just makes me feel connected with the maker somehow,  or I could be waaaay too sentimental about this. Whatever. Anyhow, I am not quite sure what the smell is other than I really like it. The jar says bergamot, black pepper, citrus, and sage, but none of those smells hold the overwhelming majority. While the cost was a bit high for only getting 2 ounces, a little really goes a long way.

Size: 2 ounces
Cost: $18.50

Final thoughts: I really-really liked this one, except for the fact that it only mostly works. I actually bought this small travel size pot with the larger one and it has saved my ass more than a few times. If I didn’t reapply this in the late afternoon, I would offend myself by dinner. There were a few moments over the course of the week that I felt a little chewy, but I kept that little pot in my purse and it was no big deal. I think this one would have been my number one, if it hadn’t been for that fact.

Overall grade: 8.5/10

4. Meow Meow Tweet (Tea Tree)

Initial impression:  Love the packaging, hate the name. HATE THE NAME! How can I talk seriously to anyone about a deodorant called Meow Meow Tweet? I have read others review regarding the smell as being “herbal” and “minty” but I will tell you flat out, it smells exactly like paint thinner. The cream goes on smooth and I didn’t notice being more wet or sticky than the others.

Size: 2.4 ounces
Cost: $18.00

Final thoughts: I could not get passed the paint thinner pits. I don’t see how others haven’t made this connection, but it could not be more blatant. On top of that, I felt like the jar wouldn’t last very long. I would be willing to try some of the other fragrances, but wasn’t impressed by this one for the price.

Overall grade: 6/10

 

Homemade Bathbombs

Okay, I’ll admit it. I buy Lush Bathbombs for my 3 year old daughter. Am I wasting my money? Yes. Do I feel like the best mom in the world? Maybe. Would I up my cool-mom points by making them myself, a little smaller, and with smells she (errr…I) like? Absolutely. This was my first time making them and they were so easy I feel like a fool for not just buying the supplies and doing it myself from the start. I don’t know what the cost savings would be on these, but I can tell you it is much less than the kajillion dollars I spend in that store. I made a few of each size, and made one roll that we sliced, and they all turned out great. I learned a few lessons on the way, and I’ll share those as well.

This recipe will make 2 – Large 3 inch balls and a little extra. I opted to keep the recipe small so that I could play with different scents and colors, but you could very easily double or triple it and make a larger batch.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup Epsom Salt (fine)
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup citric acid
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp coconut oil ( olive oil / almond oil )
1/2 tsp water
1 tsp essential oil
Pigment powder or 1-2 drops food coloring

OPTIONAL ITEMS
Bathbomb Molds or Saran Wrap
Flowerbuds / tea / petals etc… 
Shrink wrap
bags (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine all dry goods in a bowl (Epsom salt, citric acid, baking soda, cornstarch, pigment). Stir.
2. Combine all wet goods in a bowl (melted oil, 1/4 tsp water, essential oil, food coloring if not using pigment). Stir.
3. Add wet to dry slowly. The dry goods will fizz when wet, just try to stir quickly to minimize fizzing. You should have a consistency that is not wet and is not dry. From my experience, if you stir well, 1/2 teaspoon is perfect.
4. Add a few pinches of flowers/herbs/glitter/whatever to one side of the sphere molds and pack the mixture tightly on top of it. Do the same with the other side sans flowers. Then, add a little extra in the middle and cram those suckers together tightly. You can also use saran wrap to make a tube, and then cut the mold into slices, if you don’t have the molds. I didn’t try it, but I would guess you could pack these into cute cookie cutters too; I think I will try that next time.

5. Let them dry. After a few minutes (I just start on the next batch), you can CAREFULLY remove the molds from the spheres and marvel at your mad skills. You should plan on letting them dry for 24 hours before using or shrink wrapping them.



In case you were wondering, we made a Peppermint Eucalyptus (purple), Lemongrass (grey), Pomegranate Vanilla (peach) and a Mahogany / Fir (green). This is the green one in action: