What are the benefits of chemical free soaps?

It’s funny how invisible ingredient labels have become in our modern lifestyle. We take for granted that there are lots of words, chemicals, compounds, and numbers that we don’t recognize. The dynamic journey that I’m on with my daughter means delving into those labels to find out more.

I posted recently about glycerin and how it’s found in many body and beauty products. The difficulty for me is that it’s often soy derived (and Miss 2 is allergic to soy). My options are to either exhaustively ring manufacturers every time I buy a product (to check if they know their source / that their source hasn’t changed) or aim to eliminate glycerin from our home so that the risk simply doesn’t exist.

Looking into bathroom & beauty products also found me reading articles about other commonly used additives. Wider scientific debates aside, some people are sensitive to parabens and/or sulfates (SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate). If you have a child with sensitive skin or eczema then it’s worth considering a natural soap.

So I set off on a search to see if I could find a soap that was free of glycerin, parabens, and sulfates. This pretty much excludes anything made on a large commercial scale, it means that you’re looking for small batch soaps (although that doesn’t preclude them being sold in stores).

This turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be!

The two companies that I narrowed my search down to were Blue Earth (based in Ashburton, NZ) and Natural Us (based in Christchurch, NZ).  Both have a great range of products! My decision to go with Blue Earth is that they are available in over 65 stores throughout New Zealand so I was able to avoid paying for shipping. I still have products that I’d like to order from Natural Us – like their Goats Milk soap and their natural tooth powder! For international readers,  both companies ship internationally!

The first soap we’re trying is Blue Earth’s Carrot and Orange Cake.

Ingredients: Olive, coconut and rice bran oils, cocoa butter, rain water, soda lye, and carrot, sweet almond, hempseed and wheat germ oils, benzoin tree resin and essential oils of orange and cinnamon leaf.

It smells delicious and Miss 2 thinks it’s so awesome that she now actively asks to wash her hands!

What is glycerin and is it good for me?

Glyercin in bathroom products

Glyercin in bathroom products

It’s funny how invisible ingredient labels have become in our modern lifestyle. We take for granted that there are lots of words, chemicals, compounds, and numbers that we don’t recognize. The dynamic journey that I’m on with my daughter means delving into those labels to find out more.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is an organic compound that is commonly made of animal fat or vegetable oil. It’s clear, odourless, and has a sweet taste.

If you’re interested in it’s molecular formula, check out this post by Allan Robinson.

What is glycerin used for?

We can safely ignore some of its more explosive uses, like being used to make nitroglycerin (an active part of dynamite); we’re most likely to encounter it in food products or beauty products. It’s widely used because products often dissolve more easily into it (than water or alcohol) and because it’s believed to help moisturise skin.

Go have a look in your bathroom and you will find glycerin in many of your products including:

  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Skincare products.

In the kitchen, you can find it in foods but not as frequently. It’s often used in diet / low sugar products or as a base for things like ‘Peppermint Essence’.

Should I be concerned?

For most people, the answer is no. Glycerin is widely considered to have all kinds of benefits for skincare.

For some people, like those with eczema, glycerin is often an important component in moisturising treatments.

For some, for instance vegans, the source of glycerin may conflict with personal beliefs.

What is vegetable glycerin made from?

The main cause for concern about vegetable glycerin is if you have a soy allergy.

Vegetable glycerin is commonly made from soybean oil, palm oil, or coconut oil. If you’ve read my post about soybean oil then you’ll know it’s cheap, readily available, and widely used internationally in a variety of commercial products – which is a problem if you’re allergic.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out if sufficient soy protein can transmit through the manufacturing process to remain present in the end product (glycerin). The reality is that I don’t know – I’m also not certain if it’s been particularly well studied. Soy lecithin and soybean oil are not FDA regulated because they are considered to be ‘generally safe’ – unless you’re allergic to them (like my daughter).

It’s certainly something to be aware of if you (or a family member) is allergic to soy and has symptoms that don’t seem to be going away. If you’ve eliminated all other sources of soy then try reconsidering your bathroom. It’s also possible that exposure through other means may be cumulative over time or result in a low grade reaction; you know your allergy symptoms best. It’s certainly food for thought!

Tender and delicious Italian American meatballs in tomato passata

Gluten Free Italian American Meatballs in Pasta Sauce

Gluten Free Italian American Meatballs in Pasta Sauce

I haven’t made meatballs in the past; for some reason I thought they would be really tricky to make. I found these to be super easy and have now made them both in passata and oven baked. The two cooking styles create different textures – if you cook in passata they will have a softer, moister mouthfeel whereas oven baked meatballs will be drier and denser (good to dip in an accompanying sauce). Both ways are great!

This recipe will make a big batch of meatballs so feel free to halve it if desired (or to cook half in passata and half in the oven to enjoy both styles!)

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 150g breadcrumbs / gluten-free breadcrumbs / cooked quinoa
  • 3/4c milk / almond or rice milk
  • 600g beef mince (ground beef)
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • Optional: 1/2c parmesan cheese (powder or finely grated)
  • 1T ground chia seeds
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parsley (dried or finely chopped fresh)
  • Chives (dried or finely chopped fresh)
  • Garlic (dried granules or crushed fresh garlic)

Tomato Passata

  • 2x 700g jar tomato passata
  • Fresh basil (finely chopped)
  • Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free*, egg free, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until the liquid has been absorbed.
    • If you’re using cooked quinoa instead: put the quinoa in the mixing bowl for the next step and add the milk after the other ingredients are roughly combined (you may not need to add all the milk).
    • You can do Steps 2 & 3 while the breadcrumbs are soaking. The pasta sauce will then simmer while you carry on making the meatballs.
  2. In a large pot (or electric wok), mix the tomato passata, basil, sugar, salt, pepper to your taste.
  3. Bring the sauce to a boil over a medium heat and then reduce to simmer.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the meatball ingredients (including the soaked breadcrumbs). Mix until combined. The mixture will be a little sticky but should be thick and not overly wet.
  5. Lightly oil your hands and roll meatballs; I like to do lots of small ones (approx. 2T of meat mix). You can sit the rolled meatballs on a sheet of baking paper or a lightly oiled plate until you’re ready to cook them.
  6. Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce.
  7. Give a gentle stir after 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for another 35 minutes.
  8. Remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve with spaghetti, gluten-free pasta, or rice noodles.

 

Chocolate Buttercream Icing (allergy friendly)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This is a great frosting to use with Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes, the Crazy One Dish Chocolate Cake, or the Chocolate Irish Potato Cake (vegan).

Ingredients

  • 115g softened butter, or allergy friendly spread like Nuttelex
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 – 3 Tbsp milk (dairy, rice, or coconut)
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp espresso powder

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free*, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Whip the butter.
  2. Sift in 1 cup icing sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Add the vanilla and milk.
  3. Beat until smooth.
  4. Slowly beat in the rest of the icing sugar to give a good consistency for frosting.

How to make allergy free Peppermint icing

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

It continually amazes me how many products contain hidden sources of soy. I wanted to make a peppermint icing but Natural Peppermint Essence at the supermarket contains: Glycerine, Alcohol, Water, Peppermint Oil. That might not sound so bad but our lengthy food allergy journey had me wondering what Glycerine actually is.  Research shows it’s sometimes made from animal fat but mostly it’s made from vegetable oil..with soybean oil being extremely likely.

I liked this on the Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes 🙂

Ingredients

  • 100% Peppermint herbal tea bag
  • Boiling water
  • Icing sugar

Directions

  1. Steep the tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water.
  2. Make your cupcakes. (This gives the peppermint time to steep and the water time to cool.)
  3. Slowly mix the peppermint water into icing sugar.
  4. Ice your cooled cupcakes. We like them on gluten free Chocolate Cupcakes.

Note: Herbal / fruit teas work to create other flavour icings as well. Check out this naturally pink icing on vanilla Gluten Free cupcakes.

Moist & delicious Chocolate Cupcakes (gluten free!)

I love chocolate. I’ve posted a few chocolate recipes like the Crazy One Dish Chocolate Cake and the Chocolate Irish Potato Cake, and I’ve posted some make-from-scratch gluten free recipes like the Vanilla Cupcakes and the all natural pink berry flavoured icing. I wanted to play around in the kitchen with some different gluten free ingredients and make a wonderfully chocolatey and moist cupcake that also wouldn’t be packed with sugar – I prefer to balance my cakes so there’s more chocolate flavour in the cake and then extra sweetness in the (optional) icing. Miss 2 loved these with all natural peppermint icing or the Chocolate Buttercream icing (dairy free).

Ingredients

Group 1

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil (like Rice Bran oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Generous pinch ground cinnamon

Group 2

Allergies: dairy free, soy free, gluten free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  2. Whisk together the ingredients in Group 1. This helps to aerate the mix. You can use a stick blender or I used the food processor (with a plastic mixing attachment, not a metal cutting blade!).
  3. Sift together the ingredients in Group 2.
  4. Mix the combined dry ingredients into the whisked liquid.
  5. Pour into cupcake cases (makes about a dozen). Bake at 180’c for approx. 25-30 mins or until cooked.
  6. Allow to cool before icing. (We liked combining these with an all natural peppermint icing!).

 

Icing 

The icings that I use don’t have any artificial colours, glycerin, additives etc.

Gluten Free Pina Colada Cookies

Gluten Free Pina Colada Cookies

Gluten Free Pina Colada Cookies!

These Gluten Free Pina Colada cookies (UK/USA)  are a light fluffy cookie that I don’t think most people realize are gluten free when eating them! They use the Gluten Free Vanilla Cookie recipe as a base but the variations make this a moister cookie (as well as tasting of the sunny tropics). These are very welcome to add a bit of sunshine to a cold winter day and also make a great tropical treat for birthday parties!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup Healtheries Gluten Free Bread Mix
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter or allergy-free spread (i.e. Nuttelex)
  • 1 egg (whisked) or egg replacement.
  • 2 Tbsp greek yoghurt / coconut yoghurt / coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup pineapple (crushed and drained)

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free*, egg free*, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Cream the ‘butter’ and sugar. Mix in the egg.
  2. Mix in the rice flour, GF bread mix, baking powder. baking soda, yoghurt, coconut, and pineapple.
  3. Spoon out onto lightly oiled baking tray and flatten slightly.
  4. Bake at 180’C for approx. 15-20 mins (or until golden brown).

Makes approximately 12 cookies.

Note: There are several reasons that I choose to use the Healtheries Gluten Free Bread Mix instead of the Healtheries Gluten Free Baking Mix.

I prefer to use guar gum in my recipes and avoid xanthan gum; the latter is artificially derived and is often grown on an allergenic base (such as corn, soy, or wheat).

I like to control the rising agents in my baking so that I can tailor them to each recipe.

Frugality! The Bread Mix can be used to make both Gluten Free Bread and Gluten Free Baking whereas their Baking Mix can only be used for baking.

Highlights for May (collected recipes & posts)

ALLERGY FRIENDLY COOKING

BAKING & DESSERTS

MEALS

PARENTING

PLAY

HEALTH

Homemade Mayonnaise!

The great thing about homemade mayonnaise is that it’s quick to whip up and you can alter it to suit your tastes. You can make a mild and creamy hollandaise sauce type mayo to dip fries in, a mustard & tarragon mayo to go with chicken, or add dill / parsely to serve with fish.

It’s also a blessing if your family has food allergies because you have control of all the ingredients that go in. A soy allergy that doesn’t allow for vegetable oil, emulsifiers, or xanthan gum makes finding a safe store-bought mayo difficult! Miss 2 was still sensitive to the synthetic antioxidants, sulphites, and preservatives in the sauces that we could try. We’ve now moved to an RPAH Failsafe Diet exclusion of additives which means making sauces from scratch.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup of neutral oil
    • i.e. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or 1/2 cup olive oil + 1/2 cup coconut oil, or 1 cup avocado oil.
  • 2 – 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or 1/4 tsp citric acid)
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Optional: 1 tsp dried garlic granules, or 1/2 tsp mustard powder, or 1 tsp fresh herbs.  Add a little liquid honey or maple syrup if you prefer your mayo sweet.

Allergies: gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free.

For an egg free mayonnaise, check out this vegan mayonnaise recipe on Jane’s Healthy Kitchen. Her secret is coconut oil (but this will only work in cool weather and cool dishes). Another option is an aquafaba vegan mayonaise.

Tip: Eggs should be room temperature; you can put them in lukewarm water for a few minutes to warm. It will work if they are straight from the fridge but may take longer to whip up and thicken.

Tip: Lots of recipes use Dijonnaise mustard; these are packed with sulphites and preservatives so are not suitable for sensitive guts and or children. I recommend dry mustard powder.

Tip: If using olive oil choose one with a very light flavour or mix it with another oil – it risks overpowering the flavour otherwise.

Directions

  • If using a stick blender: Place all ingredients except the oil in a narrow jug or jar. Place a wand mixer in the jar, then add the oil. Whizz together, lifting the wand from the bottom of the jar to incorporate the oil. It will thicken to create a creamy mayonnaise.
  • If using a (smoothie) blender): Place all ingredients in the blender (oil last) and whizz until creamy. Note: If you have large eggs, you can try just using one and add the second if the mayo isn’t thickening.

Tip: Once the mayo is mixed up, taste and add further seasonings to taste. Remember, it’s easy to slowly add more but tricky to balance if there’s too much!

Pour mayonnaise into a sterilized glass jar; it will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Choko Pikelets (apple pie style!)

Choko pikekets (apple pie style!)

Choko pikekets (apple pie style!)

I posted earlier about why choko are awesome and such a versatile vegetable; as well as being nutritious they are also cheap, easy to grow,  and low in natural food chemicals (amines, salicylates, glutamates) which makes it suitable for sensitive guts, and those following a RPAH Failsafe diet (often useful for allergy sufferers).

It easily takes the place of fruits like apple or pear which means it’s a great way of adding a vegetable into your baking! Miss 2 loved these apple pie style Choko Pikelets and kept asking for more!

I’ve kept the spices mild but you can definitely play around with them to suit your palate! Try increasing the cinnamon to 1 tsp, or adding 1/2 tsp ground ginger, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of ground cloves, or a combination of these!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup + 1 Tbsp brown sugar, or, 1/4 cup white sugar.
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh choko
    • Just like grating potatoes, a lot of water comes out. Pat the grated choko dry before use.
  • 3/4 cup milk (can use almond or rice milk)

Note: Other names for choko include – chayote, sayote, labu siam, seemai kathrikai, Buddha’s Hand Melon, lóng xü.cài, ishkus, इस्कुस, স্কোয়াশ, Bangalore brinjal, chou chou, pipinola.

Tip: Although the recipe is gluten based, you can easily use Nana’s Yummy Gluten Free Pikelets and just add the choko + spices.

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free*, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Whisk the egg and 1/2 cup milk until frothy.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the choko. Then mix in the frothy egg + milk mixture.
  4. Slowly mix in the additional 1/4 cup milk until you have a smooth consistency.
  5. Allow mixture to stand for a few minutes.
  6. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Wait until it is hot and then brush with butter or allergy-free spread (like Nuttelex).
  7. Drop level tablespoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and cook for half a minute or until bubbles appear on the surface.
  8. Turn over and cook other side for 1 minute until golden.
  9. Allow to cool and serve with butter / spread and honey or jam.