How to save money and freshen clothes naturally! Pre-soaking laundry using baking soda.

Replace chemical cleaners with a natural and cheap laundry soaking solution!

Replace chemical cleaners with a natural and cheap laundry soaking solution!

Miss 2 has really sensitive skin (and eczema) which means that I’ve needed to look around for non-chemical options for the laundry pre-soak bucket. Funnily enough, sometimes it’s the mid-range brands of ‘Oxygenated Whiteners’ or ‘Nappy Soakers’, which claim to be environmentally friendly and ‘natural’, which cause her to react more. Of course they’re still packed with chemicals and I know it’s just a marketing ploy but it’s easy to want to believe them!

Turns out all I needed was a 1/2 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) dissolved in warm water (a couple of litres half fills my soak bucket). It helps to freshen and soak laundry (and keep it smell free) before it goes in the washing machine.

Tip: Rinse laundry first and handscrub any stubborn stains. Create a paste using four tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of water. After working the paste thoroughly into the stains, apply a little undiluted vinegar.

Tip: Don’t add white vinegar to the soak bucket. Baking soda (base) + white vinegar (acid) will largely cancel each other out and reduce effectiveness. Instead, add white vinegar during the rinse cycle (instead of fabric softener or an anti-bacterial agent) and line dry in the sun if you can.  Vinegar will help to soften hard water, reduce odours, and reduce bugs. Sunlight will also help (especially if you’re washing cloth nappies!)

How to wash net curtains (cheaply, easily, and with natural products)

Getting great results from washing net curtains with natural products!

Getting great results from washing net curtains with natural products!

My city is humid all year round (often hovering at 95% and still not raining); combine that with winter and aluminium frames and it means sweating windows which need to be wiped down daily. It also means net curtains need to be periodically washed to keep them free of grime and mold.

Miss 2 has really sensitive skin (and eczema) so I’m moving many of our cleaning products to more natural options. I wanted to see if I could find any advice on washing net curtains and found these great step by step instructions.

To summarise:

  1. Put warm water and 1 cup of white vinegar in a bathtub (or large bucket). Swirl around (agitate) and make sure the curtains are covered.  Leave to soak for an hour.
  2. Drain the water. Refill with a fresh batch of warm water and 1 cup of baking soda (bicarbonate soda). Swirl around and make sure the curtains are covered. Leave to soak for an hour.
  3. Treat any stains remaining on the curtains. Create a paste using four tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of water. Apply this paste to your curtain and rub it into the stains. After working the baking soda thoroughly into the stains, apply a little undiluted vinegar.
  4. Wash normally in the washing machine (on a gentle / delicate cycle).
  5. Line dry in the sun.

 

Tip: The reason for needing separate soaking times is because baking soda (base) + white vinegar (acid) will largely cancel each other out and reduce effectiveness if you use them at the same time.

Tip: Don’t put the net curtains in the dryer (not even on Low). They shrink – I speak from experience!

Butter beans (a baked beans alternative)

Butter beans with butter, leek, and garlic

Butter beans with butter, leek, and garlic. Grated parmesan. Choko noodles.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved baked beans as much as the next kiwi kid, but  the reality is that processed foods these days are often packed full of unnecessary sugar and salt. Hopefully Watties have changed their recipe since this damning article in 2009: “Wattie’s baked beans 420g: Although beans are good for you and packed with fibre, a can of baked beans has almost 30g of sugar. This is a low fat product and high in fibre, but does it require 1890mg of salt and 29g of sugar to make it taste good?”

Processed foods can also be a minefield for allergy families! Additionally, the reason for choosing vegetables like garlic, choko (chayote), leeks, and shallots for this recipe is because they’re low in naturally occuring food chemicals like salicylates, amines, and glutamates which is helpful for sensitive systems.

Don’t worry if you don’t have allergies – I’ve seen people post similar recipes simply because they don’t like baked beans or because butter + garlic can make anything awesome!

Tip: This recipe is also the basis of the easy to make Butter bean dip!

Ingredients

  • 400g tin of butter beans (rinse thoroughly)
    • You can substitute different beans according to taste. Like broad beans, these are quite large and hold up well in a wok without a sauce to simmer in.
  • Butter (or neutral oil, like Rice Bran Oil)
  • Garlic (crushed)
    • You can use garlic granules if you don’t have fresh.
  • Optional: leek (thinly sliced) or shallots (finely diced)
  • Optional: parmesan or grated cheese
  • Optional: cooked bacon (finely chopped)
  • Optional: choko (cheyote) as vegetable noodles.

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

Directions

  1.  Heat a frying pan (or wok) and melt butter. Lightly saute the garlic and any optional extras like leek or shallots.
    • Be careful not to over cook the garlic or you’ll get a distinctly smokey taste! (she says from experience…)
  2. Add the butter beans and cook until soft. You may need to add some extra butter while they are cooking.
  3. Serve topped with parmesan or tasty cheese if desired.

 

Choko noodles

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
  2. Peel wide strips of the actual vegetable (the length of the choko).
  3. Add some more butter to the pan (after you’ve removed the butter beans) and fry the choko noodles until softened (they should still be slightly firm to the bite; not raw and not falling apart!). They will pick up the remaining garlic from the pan.

 

 

Superfood Coconut Cacao Smoothie

I used the Healtheries Ground Chia Superfood Blend Cacao & Coconut in the Gluten Free Wild Berry Chocolate Cake and wanted to see what it would be like in a smoothie. The result is creamy, delicious, chocolatey, and with the added nutritional benefits of chia seeds!

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. Place everything in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into a serving glass. Consider topping with a little coconut cream or greek yoghurt and sprinkle some cacao on top.

How to make Spicy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Spicy Pulled Pork

Spicy Pulled Pork – allergy free and easy to make!

Pulled pork is wonderful in everything from sliders, to hot dog buns, to freshly made bread. There are many versions of pulled pork, this is a spicy one that’s delicious with apple sauce and mayonnaise.

You can make pulled pork using many cuts of pork. If you have a rolled pork loin roast you can use the flat section to make Crispy Asian Pork Belly and trim the fat away from the loin to make lean pulled pork; you can use an entire pork shoulder roast (bone in, skin on) – the only real limitation is the size of your slow cooker!

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder (approx. 2kg / 4-5 pounds)
  • 1-2 brown onions (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Dry Rub
    • 1/4c brown sugar
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1T paprika
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground pepper
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • pinch thyme
  • 170g tomato paste (or 2 cups BBQ sauce)

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

Directions

  1. In the slowcooker, create a layer of onions and garlic. Gently pour in the chicken broth.
  2. Combine the dry rub ingredients. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and then rub the spice mixture all over it.
  3. Place the pork on top of the bed of onions. Slow cook for 6 – 8 hours on High or 8 – 10 hours on Low (until the pork is tender).
  4. Time to shred the pork!
    • If you are using lean pork, you will be able to pull it apart and shred it (using two forks) inside the slow cooker. You may want to mix in 1T of butter (or 1-2 Tablespoons of a neutral oil like Rice Bran Oil). You can either remove some of the excess broth or turn the slow cooker to High (lid off) to help the broth reduce down.
    • If you are using a bone-in roast, remove pork to a chopping board. Remove and discard the bone and any large chunks of fat. Shred the pork using two forks. Strain the liquid from the slow cooker into a bowl. Place the onion, garlic, and pork back into the slow cooker. Use a spoon to skim and remove the fat off the strained liquid; slowly add the strained broth back into the pork until is just moistened.
  5. Mix in the tomato paste (or BBQ sauce). Taste and season with salt as desired.

 

I like to serve my spicy pulled pork on thick slices of freshly made Ancient Grains bread with apple sauce, grated cheese, and Butterhead lettuce. If you’re looking for inspiration on different ways to use your pulled pork – check out these 20 Delicious Dinners!

 

Wild berry chocolate cake (Gluten Free)

Wild berry chocolate cake (Gluten Free)

Wild berry chocolate cake (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 cake 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. I liked my recipe for the gluten free Chocolate Cupcakes and used it as the basis for this cake!

Ingredients

Group 1

Group 2

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo flour (also called chickpea flour)
  • 1T sweet (glutinous) rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries (i.e, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries).
    • I like this paired with raspberries best!

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. Divide the mix between two cake tins (or similar). Bake at 180’c for approx. 25-30 mins or until cooked.
  6. Allow to cool before icing. Place one cake layer on serving dish. Cover with jam (i.e. you could have raspberries in the cake mix and then use raspberry jam), place the second cake layer on top, dust with icing sugar. Serve with cream or coconut ice-cream.

Tips

As an alternative you might want to bake this as a bundt cake and use a chocolate buttercream frosting.

Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie.jpg

Tamale Pie (gluten free!)

Tamale Pie is delicious! I’d never heard of it until I discovered it in Elizabeth Gordon’s The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook. Apparently it’s a Depression-era dish that’s considered a comfort food in the Southwestern United States. It’s warm, filling, serves a bunch of hungry people (or can be used over several nights), and is conveniently gluten-free. It’s also an awesome and economical dish for those that do eat gluten and just want to try something different from a traditional Shepherd’s Pie.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2c water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2c quick-cooking polenta (fine cornmeal)
  • 350-450g beef mince (ground beef)
    • Or: turkey,  chicken.
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
  • 400g tin of black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 350-450g jar mild salsa
  • 1c grated cheese
    • Use Daiya vegan cheese if you need to be soy & dairy free.
  • Optional: 2nd jar of: salsa, or tomato passata, or basic tomato pasta sauce.
  • Optional: grated carrot, grated zucchini, finely sliced celery.
  • Optional: finely chopped ham or bacon.

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

Note: You’ll see that there are a number of optional ingredients. Personally, I like to add in the extra vegetables so that I have a one dish meal. I also like to add in the extra tomato for flavour (you’ll need to spend more time simmering the mince in order to reduce the extra liquid). The cheese on top helps to flavour the polenta (and is just plain yum); Daiya is apparently affordable in the USA as an allergy-free vegan cheese but it very expensive in New Zealand. If you can’t use cheese, consider adding some light spices to the polenta that is going on top.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  2. Bring the water and salt to the boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling, slowly stir the polenta in and keep stirring to prevent clumping. Stir until smooth and then turn heat to low; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the polenta from pot and spread half over the bottom of your pie plate or casserole dish.
  4. Heat up your frying pan (or electric wok in my case) and brown your mince; break it up as it cooks. Stir in the cumin, chipotle, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Add the beans + salsa. Also add any additional salsa/pasta sauce and vegetables that you are choosing to use.
  6. Continue cooking over a medium heat.If you are using a minimum of ingredients, you only need to cook until the edges start to bubble.
    • If you have added extra liquid and vegetables then, once the mix has started to bubble, reduce to a low-medium heat until the liquid has reduced and vegetables have started to soften.
  7. Pour the meat mixture on top of the polenta.
  8. Spread the remaining polenta on top. Sprinkle with cheese (if using).
  9. Cook for 20-25 mins at 180’C.
  10. Remove the pie from oven and let it cool for 10-15 mins before serving.
  11. Store lefovers, covered and refridgerated, for up to 3 days.

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What are the benefits of all natural shampoo?

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 natural products.

So I set off on a search to see if I could find a shampoo that was free of glycerin, parabens, and sulfates.  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, Argan Shampoo bar, and their natural tooth powder! For international readers,  both companies ship internationally!

The first shampoo that we’re trying is Blue Earth’s Shampoo Smoothie Bar.

Ingredients: Castor bean, coconut, rice bran and olive oils, cocoa butter, rain water, soda lye, hempseed and avocado oils, essential oils of lavender, rosemary, tea tree and peppermint.

I have to confess that I was a bit doubtful – simply because I’m so used to the idea of shampoos being liquid! This worked amazingly well, You only need a small amount on wet hair and the castor bean oil creates a satisfyingly frothy (and conditioning) lather. It’s mildly scented but not enough to notice (although the tea tree oil would hopefully discourage nits if you have school age children!).

It occurs to me this would be brilliant to take with you if you were travelling as it would be so portable and last for ages!

Ancient Grains Bread (soft & fluffy!)

Ancient Grains Bread

Ancient Grains Bread

To make a 750g loaf. This was delicious with home made peanut butter.

Ingredients

  • 290ml water
  • 2T oil (I use rice bran oil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T sugar
  • 3c bread flour
  • 2 T mix of:
    • Linseed
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Buckwheat
    • Puffed Quinoa
    • Coconut Thread
    • *You can mix this yourself or Hubbards conveniently sell a Seeds & Ancient Grains Mix
  • 2T milk powder
    • Baby formula also works and has the benefit of fortifying it with added vitamins & minerals!
    • Can replace with Almond Milk powder or Coconut Milk powder.
  • 3 tsp bread improver yeast

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

Directions

  1. Put everything into the breadmaker in order listed. Select Dough only.
  2. When it finishes, select Dough only again so that it goes through another knockdown/rising cycle.
  3. Take out dough, knead for a couple of minutes, and place in bread tin. Let it rise while oven heats.
  4. Heat oven to 220’C.
  5. Bake at 220’C for 10 minutes, then at 180’C for 30 minutes; you may want to lower the oven tray when you turn the temperature down. I also recommend removing the loaf from the bread tin for the last 5-10 mins of cooking to allow even browning along the base.
  6. Bread should sound ‘hollow’ if you take it out of the tin and knock on the bottom.

Note: This will not turn out the same if you simply cook it in the breadmaker (it will be okay but not amazing) because the bread is contained by the size of the breadmaker and you can’t vary temperature and distance from heat.

Tip: A longer rising time will result in fluffier bread. I have sometimes done 4 knockdowns (two lengthy and two short) and 4 rising times meaning that the bread with 4-8 hours of ‘proofing’ before baking. Gluten based bread loves getting knocked around; all that kneading and rising helps to elasticate the dough and allows the gluten + yeast to work together to create tiny air bubbles.

If you’re interested in the chemistry of breadmaking check out this great post from Serious Eats.

Did you know? A commercial bakery will go from start to bag in 3 hours or less when making bread; traditional methods (and sourdoughs) take 18-25 hours. One theory behind rising numbers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is our move away to industrialized baking; a longer rising time results in decreased gluten proteins as they break down and change. It’s something to think about if you’re considering decreasing gluten in your diet.

Ancient Grains Bread

Ancient Grains Bread

Discovering the Secret Garden

Toi toi standing tall.

Toi toi standing tall.

Today we went and explored a beautiful secret garden after Miss 2’s post-op Doctor’s appointment. I’m still working my way up to talking about our experiences with her multiple surgeries and instead thought I’d share a glimpse of the beautiful landscapes we saw.

Path of Gold

Path of Gold

Winter beauty

Winter beauty

Journey to Rangitoto

Journey to Rangitoto

Love and Comfort

She won’t leave the house without him!

Fern valley

Fern valley

Winter waterfall

Winter waterfall