Monday, November 20, 2017

Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins

I haven't posted in a while as my husband was in the UK for A COUPLE OF weeks after I too was across the country visiting my widowed Dad. So time to catch up on some baking.

One thing I make regularly is muffins. My husband loves one as a mid-morning snack with an apple, and I often will grab one for breakfast on my drive to work with a small portable kefir drink. But so many of them are super high in fat and sugar.

 This one is neither low sugar or fat but it's still in an acceptable range with only three grams of fat per muffin and it makes a very moist and tasty muffin with extra fiber from the oatmeal.

 Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins

 In large bowl mix:
1 cup oats (not instant)
1 and 1/2 cups flour
 1/3 cup brown sugar
 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of Cardamom

In a medium bowl mix:
1 cup skim milk or nut milk
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 large egg whisked (or equivalent veggie egg substitute)
splash of pure vanilla (about 1/4 tsp)
3 Tablespoons butter melted or Vegan "butter" baking stick. (drizzle in slowly while whisking)

Pour liquid ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray 12 muffin tins with non-stick spray, add batter using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measure and bake in preheated 375 F. oven for 16-18 minutes (lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 NOTE: To make gluten-free use King Arthurs gluten free flour and add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum to the dry ingredients.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Super Easy Chicken Soup

Whether made with real chicken or chicken style veggie protein this is a quick easy soup that you can have on the table in less than 20 minutes. (and it's way better than canned soup).

2 cups water and 2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup diced sweet onion (optional)
1/3 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used two different varieties)

1/4 pound egg noodles
small handful of shredded spinach

2 cups diced fully cooked chicken or cooked veggie protein.

Saute carrots, celery, and onion (if using) in a teaspoon or two of extra virgin olive oil (or butter) for 2-3 minutes to soften.  Add liquid and bring to a low boil and simmer 9-10 minutes.  Add noodles and cook 8 minutes more, adding mushrooms the last couple of minutes.

Add protein and bring to a boil, adding in spinach to wilt in the last minute or so.

Season to taste (I used a couple of dashes of salt and pepper, a pinch of Italian seasoning, a dash of crushed red pepper and 2 pinches of thyme).  If you want a more "noodley" soup use 1/2 pound noodles, I make mine rather low carb.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

DIY Hamburger Helper (with gluten free option)

As a child I loved noodle casseroles.  With a Scandinavian Mom and it being the 60's, that was not a problem.  But she battled cancer most of my childhood, so sometimes even my SuperMom didn't want to cook dinner.  So in the early 70's Mom found  Hamburger Helper. We didn't have it often, but it was a treat for my brother and me when we did.

After many years away from it, I tried a box of my favorite flavor, the beef noodle.  It just did NOT taste the same.  It also had a lot of ingredients I couldn't pronounce as well as corn syrup, artificial colors, soy and MSG.  No Thanks.  I can make a much cleaner version for probably the same cost.

This was not particularly photogenic but it was very tasty, kids love it, and it makes four-six  entree-sized servings. It's an easy to put together meal on a work night, or when you have the grandkids visiting and the dry seasonings can be mixed in batches and stored in a sandwich bag to speed things up even more.

DIY Hamburger Helper Beef Noodle (vegetarian/gluten free version in parenthesis).

1 pound hamburger (veggie "beef" of your choice)
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion or 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce. (gluten-free Worcestershire sauce)

Recipe for that here:

Combine in a cereal bowl:
1 Tablespoon:
Corn Starch

1 teaspoon each:
Garlic Powder

Have ready

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 and 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil
3 MSG-free beef bullion cubes
1 and 1/2 cups milk (almond milk).

2 and 1/3 cup wide egg noodles (gluten-free noodles). Note:  I added extra noodles based on a small person's request :-) using less will give you a saucier dish.

In a large fry pan with a cover brown ground beef and minced onion (celery) and drain.  Add tomato paste and combine and let sit, reducing heat to low for a few minutes to warm it through.

Increase heat to medium and add 1 and 1/2 cups hot water in which you've already dissolved the bullion cubes.

Add milk or nut milk and bowl with dried seasonings/cornstarch/sugar.  When at a gentle simmer add noodles, cover and cook for the time listed on the noodle package directions.

Add salt and pepper (to taste and optional)

Served with corn and some carrot and celery sticks.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rosacea Relief - Bend Soap Style

This blog is now two years old.  I only post a few times a month as my pet blog and author blog keeps me pretty busy.  But I have truly enjoyed my journey to get better health over the last two years.  I have lost 12 pounds, gained muscle tone-working out twice a week, and have a lot more energy eating less "junk" and more real farm-raised food.

One thing that has always been an ongoing issue is my Rosacea.  For those of you unfamiliar it's a skin condition, the origins of which are murky, which causes redness and acne-like eruptions on the face.  It starts as simply blushing a lot on top of a normally pink complixion.  As a child, the crueler kids called me "Beet Face".  As I got older the redness spread and the breakouts began.  I had to wear really thick pancake makeup or people would constantly ask how I got so sunburned.

It's not a fun thing to deal with and if left untreated can not only damage the skin but leave psychological and self-esteem issues.  The skin can thicken and get bumpy and there are large broken capillaries on the face that make you look like you spend your evenings hitting the moonshine. There is no cure for it, you can only control it.  Some dietary changes help (spicy food and chocolate for me are serious triggers) and there is a LOT more the dermatologists can do now for it than when I was in my 20's and 30's.
My unretouched skin October 2015
(all photos just a touch of plain or tinted sunscreen, and a little eye makeup,
I was embarrased to take a photo of my lower jaw, it was so covered in acne-like blemishes).

2015 Yearly cost of skin care  - $600. (Assorted drugstore brands for "sensitive skin" or "acne" and the occasional high-end  cream splurge)

My skin was really irritated and red, and though my cheeks were fairly smooth, I was getting a lot of fine lines around the eyes and my nose and cheeks were bright red.

Time to do something serious about that. I knew it would initially cost me some money but I was desperate for an improvement in the broken veins and redness.

Now, two years later, I have to say my rosacea is totally under control for two reasons.

(1) Natural skin care products (thank you goats!)
(2)  BBL Laser Therapy twice a year at the dermatologist to "zap" the really obvious veins.

The BBL treatment is dermatologist recommended for the control of rosacea.  It uses Broadband Light to destroy the surface, unwanted blood-vessels that accompany Rosacea.  It's not a cure but it helps manage.  It is also said to help over time with some fine lines as the skin reacts to it by building a bit more collagen. I didn't notice any change there, nor did it help with breakouts, but the loss of redness from the "fixed" broken capillaries was amazing.

It is NOT a pleasant procedure.  Unlike the serious anti-aging laser treatments (which I will pass on due to the price) there is no "numbing" gel as that interferes with the interaction with the broken veins.  As best I can say, it's like having hot grease flung on your face or being snapped really hard by a rubber band.  I was in tears by the time we were done, but my treatment provider was SO kind and helped me through it with gentle words and a quick hand, and it was over in just a few minutes. I was amazed to see that even with one treatment many of the prominent capillaries were gone, once the overall light swelling went down (I was at work the next day).  I went twice last year, but as the veins are all treated I'll eventually only need a sporadic touch-up.

Still, even with the veins becoming history the overall redness and texture of my face needed some help as the products I was using on my skin were only further irritating it.  This is where further improving and simplifying my skin care comes in.

In 2016 I was using a dermatologist promoted line but was doing TOO much exfoliating between the exfoliating cleanser and a Retin A product.  The products also contained some ingredients I knew were toxic in high doses. Yes, they helped with wrinkles but all the exfoliating was seriously irritating my rosacea and I really wanted a more "natural" product as all those science experiment sounding ingredients were being absorbed by my body.  Plus, it wasn't helping with the blocked oil glands I had that left noticeable bumps on my face and forehead (Sebaceous Hyperplasia).
 October 2016

2016 Yearly Cost of Skin Care and Dermatology - $2000 as I did two $350 BBL treatments and was using expensive skin care lines, even as I added more high-end organic products. It was quite an improvement, but I still had fairly red cheeks and nose and the breakouts on lower jaw and chin. Plus I REALLY wanted to spend less money on my skin care routine.

Of the "natural" skincare lines I found (which varied a lot in price) I can say that I enjoyed all of the products.  But they still weren't helping as much as I liked with pore size, blocked oil glands, and the rosacea-related acne type breakouts that the laser treatment didn't address.  I was also spending WAY more than I really wanted to.

Until I found:

The last couple of months I've been using JUST the Bend Soap Company goats milk soap on my face, rotating the unscented  (which a friend gave me as a gift) and the tea tree soap (which acne just hates) of which I got a free sample with my first order, and the honey oatmeal on my body.  It does NOT dry out my skin at all, unlike every soap I've used in my life on my face and smoothed the texture out dramatically. Before washing I gently "dry brush" my face (and I'll have a post on the benefits of dry brushing soon) with a soft, natural brush, then moisten my face, lather and rinse with lukewarm water and I'm done.

Instead of a heavy moisturizer or night cream, I just use the unscented Bend Soap Goat Milk Lotion on my face, reapplying a drop or two to protect and sooth in the afternoon if I'm out in a strong wind along the lake (and a little physical sunscreen). Sure I still have a few fine lines around my eyes (I'm 60 next year and sitting in a cockpit at high altitude for 15 years as an airline pilot did not help) but the tone and texture of my skin is amazing in just a few weeks and have I "less red, more glow" than I did even a few months ago.

October 2017 - cheapo camera, unretouched,  no red nose and cheeks, no acne.  

2017 Cost of Goat Milk Facial Skincare per year.  $100.   Yes, per YEAR for lotion and soap based on what I am using daily on my face only as it only takes a small amount of lotion (given the amount I'm using I think the bottle will last 2 months if just used on my face).

Add in a gentle sunscreen and a $350 maintenance BBL treatment for any broken veins that pop up this year and it's still an incredible value in treating my chronic rosacea, literally a quarter of what I spent last year without getting these results.

The Bend Soap prices are incredible.  There are almost no places you can get handcrafted soap for less than $5 a bar and a generously sized lotion for less than $10. (This means more money to buy their genuinely addicting milk bath products and other products).

You can get some scented goats milk lotion for the body, but I used the unscented for my facial skin.  Perfect for sensitive skin the Bend Goats Milk Lotion has no alcohols, dyes, parabens, phthalates, synthetic preservatives or other toxic components.  There are no GMO ingredients, no soy, no gluten and they are Hypoallergenic. Although it is fairly thick, it applies smoothly, dries quickly, and is super moisturizing without adding a bunch of oil to the skin that just clogs the pores. It's also naturally packed with vitamins your skin craves - A, D, B1, B6, B12, C, and E.

The salicylic acid in the goats' milk made a difference in my skin tone in just a matter of a few weeks, the redness is further reduced and ALL of my blemishes are gone. Even the bumps from the clogged oil glands are finally diminishing and I'm pretty sure that over time they will clear up, something that all the online advice of retinal products, magic acne treatments, and even plain old apple cider vinegar, did nothing for.

It's been two years of trial and error but I have to say, I'm able to go outside with just a small dab of  tinted sunscreen instead of pancake makeup and I'm loving that.

I think I need to go hug a goat.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Butter Me Up - Canadian Recipe for Buttered Chicken

The origins of this dish are Indian but it is very popular in restaurants in Eastern Canada.  I had it first in Montreal and when the recipe showed up in my Canadian Living Magazine (I had extended family for many years in Canada and learned how to make some traditional Canadian food) I had to make it, and make it again.  Like many recipes, there are many variations online but this is the one I make.

It's not low fat with the nut butter (and we won't mention the sour cream) but the combination of flavors is really wonderful, despite the perhaps odd-sounding combination of ingredients. I often make it with skinless chicken thighs.

Butter Chicken


2 onions diced
3 cloves garlic minced
(if you avoid onions and garlic substitute celery with additional cumin or a tiny bit of Asafetida)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup cashew butter
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut in halves or quartered
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In slow cooker, combine onions, garlic, butter, ginger, brown sugar, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, salt, pepper, and tomatoes.

Whisk broth with almond butter; pour into slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours or for up to 8 hours.

In a food processor, puree sauce in small batches until smooth and add back to crockpot and bring it back up to a high temperature. Add the chicken; cook on high until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. (about 30-40 minutes when quartered).

Stir in sour cream. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bend Soap Company - Family Run, Family Values

Dwight and Marilee Johnson (no relation to us!) and their family of 11 live on a 40-acre farm in beautiful Central Oregon. I know that area well. Back when I was playing airline pilot we had a run into the Redmond/Bend airport and it was one of my favorite trips as we had a layover long enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.

 As the Johnson's raised a herd of happy healthy goats that ate only good food and were given natural substances to keep them healthy rather than medications that would then end up in their milk – they got the idea of making some soap with it. With a long history as a successful entrepreneur and the support of his creative and clever wife, Dwight's  initial soap soon became a family effort as a result of crafting some soap from their farm’s goats to help with eczema that their young son Chance was suffering with.
Making some goat milk Kefir in my "cowboy wineglass"
 - no milking involved, just a trip to Whole Foods.

Consuming goat milk (which I drink in place of cow’s milk which I don’t digest well) the Johnson family knew the benefits of the milk nutritionally.

• Goat’s milk is full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals
• Is easily absorbed by the body
• And has a pH that is relatively close to that of the human body

Could that also help young Chance's skin if used topically?

They found that by putting a couple bars of their newly created honey and oatmeal soaps into the bath and letting Chance play and soak in the water for 15-20 minutes gave him great relief, and his eczema was practically gone after one week of daily baths like this. This is great news because it’s often recommended that you avoid frequent bathing if you have eczema as it dries out the skin, making the itching worse.
That’s the secret behind their amazing milk bath product. This was one of the first products I ordered, the online ordering easy and the products arriving quickly (with a free sample bar of tea tree soap - thanks!)

Rather than a powdery, strongly scented product like many bath additives, it’s fine shards of the purest soaps with essential oils (except the unscented one which has no essential oils) that dissolves in your bath like a cloud. Goats milk also has natural alpha-hydroxy acids which will gently exfoliate the skin. I used some for the first time last night, the “English Garden” scent and my husband commented on how smooth my arms were when he gave me a hug as I came out of the bathroom in my pajamas. He also commented on how clean and pretty the scent was.

He then used a bar of unscented goat milk soap in his shower to wash his hair. When we first married and I moved into his home, I noticed he only used this one generic brand of dandruff shampoo. I told him several years later that it must work as he had no dandruff. He laughed and said, “I never have, I just hate the strong scents of drugstore shampoo.” Well, the dandruff shampoo was kicked to the curb. So much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies that I didn’t want him using a medicated product he didn’t need. He'd found a couple of natural shampoos he liked but he loved the idea of a bar he can use to shampoo as much as he travels in his engineer job.

He washed his fine blond hair with the unscented Bend Soap and his hair was SO soft and shiny. I’m loving the soaps as well, the unscented for my face cleared up some "I can't have acne I'm over 50!" that developed after I used a new sunscreen that my face and rosacea did NOT like. Within two days, my skin looked 100% better. I’ve never been able to use soap on my face, too drying, but the goat milk soap left my skin soft and smooth, didn’t burn my eyes, and calmed the redness that is the bane of rosacea.

Got Pets with sensitive skin?  Made to lather well, the goat milk soap is easy to use on your dog or cat's coat.  It will get their fur clean, but it is a LOT easier to rinse off than most other pet shampoos.  Gentle and non-irritating on the skin it also doesn't contain chemicals that their bodies will absorb, or remain on the skin to be licked off later.  Always do a patch test first like any new product, but Abby has her baths with goat milk soap (a much more expensive brand so I'm happy to find this) since we got her and her fur is SO soft and shiny.

For a shower or bath for we humans, it’s great. Most commercial skincare products are made with a mixture of alcohols, synthetic fragrances, and other chemicals which strip our skin of its natural oils that keep it protected and are intended to defend it against becoming dry, irritated, and unhealthy.I had a little rubber bucket of assorted bath products for my nightly bath, but I couldn't use them every night or my skin would dry out and itch.  (I hadn't learned yet that the GMO oils used in cheap bath products, even those touted as "moisturizing", can irritate and dry the skin.)

The Bend Soap and Bend Milk Bath have made a huge difference in my skin in only a few days and the milk bath is soothing and inexpensive enough I can use it frequently! I can’t wait to use the goat milk lotion on my face and body instead of the scented products that often make me itchy or break me out.
With the quality ingredients including palm oil, that they ensure is sustainably harvested, it’s no wonder.

So for my book fans and readers some questions

 •Do you suffer from harsh skin sensitivities, like me, spending thousands of dollars over the years trying to help?

 •Are you allergic or sensitive to many skin care products and can’t use them?

  •Are you concerned about toxic products in your body and the effect on you and your family's long-term health?

  •Would you love to use wonderful products to make your skin and hair soft and supple without spending $9 a bar or $30 a jar?

 Natural, gentle, deeply moisturizing, healing and convenient products from a family run company that's had years of happy customers.  What's not to LOVE?

There's soaps, lip butters, scrubs, lotions, and even a natural deodorant and lots of information on their company and products and it's obvious how close this family is.
I so enjoyed the photos on their website of their children helping with the chores and the production - growing up as I did doing things with my brother around our Western home to earn a little money, learning responsibility, sharing, and commitment to something.  As I look at the smiling faces of the Johnson family, I can't help but think of what wonderful family memories are being made right now as they provide a product that supports and nourishes a community of people.

Go check them out, especially the gift tins with the holidays coming up (and seriously- orange Sugar Scrub? - I am SO ordering that!)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Triple Berry Sourdough Muffins

Thanks for your patience everyone - I've got a new Novella being published in October (part of an anthology with other authors) and I've been busy finishing that up with my editor.  Fortunately, I got on the scale and though I've been eating somewhat haphazardly being busy and with a husband that's been traveling for work a lot, I haven't gained any weight.

So time for some baking.

My sourdough starter has been doing really well, so I made another batch of muffins.  My husband eats one of these every morning as a snack and they are always a hit. I vary the berries in them and sometimes use  1/4 tsp. Cardamon in place of the Cinnamon. They also freeze really well so I can take some into work to share.  They aren't particularly low-fat or low-sugar (you could replace some or all of the oil/butter with applesauce to make them healthier), but for a homemade snack they are really moist and tasty and the slight tang of the sourdough pairs nicely with the fruit.

You can get sourdough going two ways:

(1)  Find a friend that has some going and borrow at least a half a cup.  Store in a glass jar covered with a coffee filter and rubber band.  You will need to "feed" your new sourdough, then feed it again in a few days.  Feed by adding equal parts flour and non-chlorinated (always) water, stir with a wooden spoon (sourdough does NOT Like metal) and let sit in a warm room (68-70 degrees min.) for an hour or two before and after feeding. If the room is cold, set it on top of a heating pad set on "low". Then store in the refrigerator between feedings.  Feed it with equal amounts flour/water mix at least once a week (I don't feed more than a cup of flour at a time, usually a half cup). In a few days with a couple feedings, it will be ready for baking. Always leave a 1/2 cup in the jar to grow additional starter.

Every two-three weeks I pour the starter into a clean dry bowl, thoroughly wash the glass jar, dry and re-add the starter as some of the starter eventually dries on the side of the jar as you pour it into a measuring cup.

(2)  Or you can make your own starter if you have a warm kitchen and about 5 days (daily upkeep is minimal but it takes several days for it to "take off").

Directions are here:

Triple Berry Sourdough Muffins

In one bowl stir until well combined:

2 cups flour (if using gluten-free add 1/2 tsp Xanath gum)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons brown sugar

In another bowl mix:
1 cup sourdough starter (mine is about the consistency of Kefir - if your starter is thicker you may wish to add another Tablespoon or two of water to the recipe).
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) melted butter
1 egg (whisked)
1 Tablespoon honey
pinch of lemon zest (optional)

Mix wet and dry ingredients and fold in:

1 and 1/2 cups clean and dry berries (I used 1/2 cup each of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries).

Sprinkle muffin batter with a tiny bit of granulated sugar and bake in a preheated 375-degree  F. oven for 27-30 minutes (or until lightly browned and toothpick inserted comes out clean)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thai Noodles with Chili Ginger Dressing

I LOVE Thai food and could eat it a couple of times a week.  However, it CAN be somewhat high in oil and sugar when commercially prepared.

Wanting a taste of Thai on this meatless Monday, this was my cold lunch - and it was SO good.  The dressing actually makes enough for one large or two single serving noodle salads.

To assemble - fill a single serving sized bowl with cold cooked linguini or rice noodles.

Top with a large handful of assorted:
snap peas
red pepper
a pinch or two of peanuts
lime for drizzling.

Then top with a wonderful ginger chili dressing (do in your food processor to incorporate the red pepper flakes into an emulsion, if you wish).

Chili Ginger Salad Dressing

1/4 vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp. dried chili pepper flakes
1 tsp. honey or Agave Nectar (natural sweetener)
1 tsp. Spring water
1/4 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste (optional)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mexican Food Doesn't Mean 2000 calories

I had a craving for Mexican but I knew that if we went to one of the local restaurants I'd have a platter the size of New Jersey preceded by 2 pounds of fried chips and salsa.

Still, I wanted that taste and that crunch.

So I made homemade tostadas.

Rather than buy Tostada shells I just used corn tortillas and lightly sauteed them in a little hot oil, just until crisp, then patted dry to remove most of the grease.  They were topped with some fat-free beans ( pinto's smashed with a little cooking water and a dash of oregano), lettuce, a few strips of leftover chipotle seasoned pot roast from a previous meal (omit for veggie version or replace with Setain) a TINY sprinkle of cheddar, fat-free sour cream, mild salsa, a splash of hot sauce,  and a few slices of avocado I served it on a colorful salad plate to give it the appearance of being a larger serving than it was, a great trick I use all the time.

Yummy - and I didn't even miss the chips

Monday, August 14, 2017

There Truly IS an all day Lip Color - LipSense Review

Check the bottom of your purse or makeup bag.  We all have them.  You know, those many many tubes of lipsticks, lip stains, and waxy lip balms.  We buy the balms because the stains  and some of the lipsticks dry out our lips, then we end up with a film on our lips that makes what lipstick we DO apply (and reapply and reapply) look uneven.

I was about ready to just chuck it all and go barefaced (which is a shame as my natural lip color is so pale I look anemic) when I purchased, on a friend's recommendation, a great lip color from SeneGence International. They launched into fame in 1999 with the LipSense patented color technology and have expanded out to a full line of skin and cosmetic care.
Color pictured is Caramel Apple

I was skeptical about the "all day wear" especially as I'm usually chugging on a water throughout the entire day, and I do a lot of "mini meals".  At the end of the first day, I was really surprised. 

Here's before - no other makeup but LipSense (and the bathroom in question has flourescent light, hense the slight green tinge to my skin tone). It's a weekend day off, so no makeup, contact lenses, or fuss, just a quick trial of the Lip Sense.  Unfortunately, with the large camera I can't really do a proper selfie, but taking a picture of the mirror worked.

The colors come in matte, frost and shimmer shades and you can also get lip liner and a lip color remover (great for the end of the day or "oops - I colored outside the lines!")  The shimmer shades are great because even if some the gloss wears off you still have a nice natural sheen to your lips. The application requires three thin layers, so you can mix and match shades for a personal look. I love Pink Champagne and Aussie Rose mixed together.

click on photos to enlarge

3 water bottles and one serving Kambucha tea
a bowl of South River Porridge (
some grapes and  raw almonds
pasta tossed with veggies and a little olive oil
4 Keebler fudge striped cookies (if they are made by elves calories don't count).
Vegetarian Greek Salad (with garbanzo beans for protein)

And 8 hours, my lips were still a wonderful shade of pink). The gloss had worn off but the color stayed true.

Plus, the color didn't dry out my lips! It has Peony Root Extract - which is a natural calming flower herb, St. John's Wort Extract (antibacterial and skin healing) as well as Linden Flower Extract (a powerful antioxidant) to help keep your lips healthy

LipSense is designed to be waterproof, kiss proof, smear proof and it will not budge until you're ready to remove it. It's also Vegan, non-GMO and they do NOT test on animals.  It also doesn't dry out your lips, working to restore your moisture content (if you've been seriously overdoing the waxy chap stick kind of balms, it may take a couple of days for the product to fully moisturize your lips.)

The gloss that applies over the stain also contains vitamin E and Shea butter. The gloss comes in clear and you can also get some light shades based on having warm or cool skin tones (the lip colors are all set up by skin undertone to help you select a shade that will compliment your skin.)

I've already ordered more colors - and the giant collection of half used waxy lip products is in the trash!  I'm enjoying looking through the catalog - there are going to be some more SeneGence products finding their way into my makeup back for sure.

Thanks for my long time friend and SeneGence consultant Jalissa Witt Lowry for telling me about the products. Ordering from her was super easy, I just messaged her the products I wanted, she sends emailed electronic invoice that's secure for payment and the products showed up on my door a few days later.

Or join the fun at her LipSense Facebook Group - The Boss of Gloss

If you don't do Facebook, just drop her a line at: jalissabossofgloss at gmail dot com and she'll set you up.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Beeswax Candles and Handcrafted Honey - A Review of Raines Honey Farm

I love honey products, using beeswax candles in my home to clear the air which helps with both allergy and pet dander issues.

For years I used the typical decorative candle that smelled like apple pie or cinnamon or such.  I also attributed the constant sneezing and sniffing when I was burning a decorative candle to seasonal allergies.  But when I started cooking and canning and doing more things from scratch around the home, I looked into a better, cheaper option.  Well, beeswax isn't cheaper, not at first glance, but it is SO much better, and ultimately, a good value.

Hundreds of years ago, candles were made from beeswax.  Over time, those beeswax candles were gradually replaced by tallow (animal fat) candles, and then in the last century by paraffin candles.  If you look at the candles in your home, that's likely what you have. But what exactly IS paraffin?

Well, it's made from the goo found at the bottom of barrels of crude oil, which is then treated and bleached with chemical solvents such as benzene and toluene to "clean it up".  This is AFTER the stuff to make asphalt is extracted.  There's a reason such candles put out soot and smoke when you burn them, along with some tasty carcinogens.  To get around that natural "diesel fuel" smell the makers add synthetic fragrance oils, many of which can be toxic if burned.
No wonder I was sneezing and sniffing.  The minute particles of that sludge byproduct, over time, can also stain walls, and drapes.

Then I discovered 100% beeswax candles.

Not only do beeswax candles not put out the pollutants, they also help clean the air, for as the candle burns, negative ions are emitted that clean the air.  How?  Negative ions are drawn to positive, and positive ions attract and hold on to airborne things such as mold, dust, bacteria, viruses, and odor causing pollutants, and are suspended in the air.  The negative ions latch on to the "contaminated" positive ions and weigh them down where they fall to the ground.  It's similar to  the cleansing of the air you see after a thundershower a negative ionic event if there ever was one.
I have no hard science as to the allergy connection, but several friends for whom I gave beeswax candles as gifts, say they have seen a marked improvement in their allergies, burning a beeswax candle in their bedroom for about 3 hours before sleep.  I burn one for a few hours in my small home prior to a visit from a friend that's sensitive to pet dander and she says it helps immensely.

But LB!  You're part Scot!  You're a spendthrift!  You refinish and reupholster throw away curb furniture and bake your own bread.  Those candles are rather pricey!
100% Beeswax candles burn 3 times longer than traditional candles.  Considering that, they are quite competitively priced with most high commercially sold candles. It's dollars well spent.

Home Emergency Supplies - candles are a part of most smart folks ready reserves for a natural disaster or electrical outage.  Not only does the beeswax candle burn cleaner, nice in close quarters, but it has a flame that's much brighter than traditional candles, with the same light spectrum as a ray of sun.  I keep one in the glove box of my vehicle, in case of an on road emergency requiring a bit of natural light and heat without polluting the cab of the bat truck.
But (there's always a but).  Not all Beeswax candles sold are 100% pure. Labeling in the US requires only that they be 51% beeswax to be pure (much like some of our food labeling).  Look for the phrase "100% pure beeswax" and note the unique and fresh, subtle honey fragrance.

Today's new beeswax candle comes from an Illinois beekeeping family:

The Raines family has been beekeepers for the past 19 years, expanding their business to keep up with the demand for their premium honey.  Their hives are placed on family farms across Northwest Illinois and Southwest Il.  A small one-family operation they produce some of the tastiest honey I've had in years.  Sure, premium honey costs more than store bought but once you try it you'll view store honey like "really bad coffee".  There is that much of a taste difference.  The Raines honey is pure, raw, and natural with a sweet flavor that comes from local flowers, mostly clover.  They never cook, pressure filter or add anything to their honey nor do they use any chemicals in their beehives. 
Ordering online is easy and it's also found in a number of stores in North Central Illinois.  I did an online order and I got my package promptly delivered to Chicagoland, wrapped securely with bubble wrap to avoid damage.  In addition to my new candle, I got two kinds of honey, both regular and whipped (I love that on my morning bagel) a beeswax balm stick (great on dry heels and elbows and as a travel moisturizer since it's solid the TSA won't take it away), a scented bath soap. and they gifted me a new lip balm as a thank you for my first order. All of their products are vegetarian and are only tested on friends and family, NOT animals.

Now I can add a new animal candle around my tub now instead of those Ikea tub o'tealights for ten bucks, which just sooted up my bathroom. These candles produce NO smoke and last SO long, while your drapes, walls, and air stay fresh and clean.
Whether you are a candle lover, a homesteader, someone who loves their "Calgon Take Me Away" candle accompanied baths, or live in an area with power outages, add some pure beeswax candles to your supplies and order up some yummy honey from the Raines family while you are at it. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Meatless Mood - Sesame Tofu

We eat meat free about 80% of the time, keeping our animal protein to non-factory farmed meat and fish or wild game.

I know some of you can't eat soy but for a large part of the population, tofu is a very popular and relatively inexpensive source of protein.

But what to make with it other than my normal smoother of 1/4 block tofu, sparking flavored water, a dash of protein powder and a cup brimming with frozen berries?

Sesame Tofu Chinese Style - if you love sesame chicken or just the sweet tang of a rich sweet and sour type sauce you will love this.  For lower-fat you can also bake the tofu instead of frying it in coconut oil. Serves 2.

1/2 cup sugar-free barbecue sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic powder (optional for those that don't do garlic)
1 tablespoon  Braggs liquid aminos
1/2 block extra firm tofu
1 teaspoon corn starch
Sesame seeds to garnish
chopped green onion (optional)

You'll want to marinate the tofu, so mix this up first thing in the morning.  In a bowl mix the barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, juice, Worcestershire, ground ginger, garlic (if using) and liquid-aminos.

Set aside 1/3 of the sauce and cover.

Chop half a block of extra firm tofu into equal sized cubes.

Marinate the tofu cubes in the remaining 2/3 of the sweet and sour sauce.

Leave the marinated tofu and remaining sauce in the fridge until the evening..

The next day add 1 teaspoon corn starch to the remaining sauce and coat the marinated tofu in the mixture.

Either bake the tofu at 400°F on a nonstick sheet for 30 minutes or fry in coconut oil until crispy. Serve with steamed rice and top with sesame seeds and green onions (optional)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Udi's Gluten Free Penne & Cheese - A Review

In trying to reduce the amount of gluten in my diet (not Celiac but sensitive), I've tried some OK products and some really awful products.

Today I wanted to share one that is going to be a favorite.  I found this at a local "non-chain" health food store with a good frozen food selection.  At $6.99 it was not cheap but still cheaper than eating my work lunch out at a restaurant.

UDI's overall has a great line of gluten free items (their bagels are awesome) but being a mac and cheese lover, I wasn't sure how good this would be. I looked at some other reviews and they complained about the noodles being too soggy or too dry but their cooking instructions were different than what's on the box now.

First a check of the ingredients.  OK, it has eggs and dairy, but NO SOY and NO WHEAT.  Yay.

I think next time I'd give it an extra 15 seconds in the microwave as there were a couple bit of cheese sauce that hadn't melted fully but overall the package instructions resulted in a nicely textured pasta.

The pasta:  tasted like gluten filled pasta and although the noodles weren't exactly "al dente" they weren't overly soft either.

Cheese sauce - it was very tasty and cheesy, with no chemical aftertaste and LOTS of sauce.  It had enough sauce next time I will throw in a 1/2 to 3/4 cup steamed veggies to it for a more filling meal.

Serving Size - for a meal, it serves one nicely, but if you add some veggies, this would make a nice side dish for two people

Nutrition: It's over 450 calories and fairly high in fat (26 grams!) and sodium (450 mg) but for an occasional treat "bachelor" meal with 14 grams of protein when my husband is on the road, I will so be buying this again.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Be Warned - Appetizer Crack

Looking for something to serve at a family outing or take to a party that you can nibble on without guilt?  The first time I made this for three friends, they ate the whole bowl - and it was a BIG bowl. We ended up putting the enchiladas I made for the main course in Tupperware for everyone to take home.

It's easy to make but for some chopping, fat free and vegan.  If you want to cut the carbs -  slice up celery sticks to use as a dip transport mechanism.

Around here it's known as Appetizer Crack

(easily cuts in half measurement wise)

2 cups roasted corn, chilled before blending with other ingredients. (honestly, you can  use the Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn and no one will be able to tell the difference)

2 cans black beans - rinsed and drained

2 red peppers

2 green peppers

2 Roma tomatoes - chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and finely diced.

1 cup chopped cilantro. (I'll be honest, I don't like cilantro but I loved it in this dish).

1 medium to med/large red onion - chopped (but not one of those Jabba the Hut sized onions).


juice of 4 limes (if you must use bottled lime juice, try and find the Key West brand, use 8 tablespoons).

2 Tablespoons APPLE CIDER vinegar

1 clove garlic (if you used the minced fresh in the jar, the amount to equal a clove is on the jar, about 2 tsp).

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika (there's sweet and smoky types, get the sweet)

few grinds of fresh pepper,

1/4 (roughly) teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder (I used Penzey's, their stores are in many Midwest cities and you can buy on- line, very reasonably priced). Some stores carry other brands. If you absolutely can't find it, use regular chili powder.

2 Tablespoons honey

1/2 cup  extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Wash all the produce well. Chop and combine all the fresh veggies, the corn and the beans. Chill while mixing dressing. Mix all dressing ingredients except the olive oil. In a thin stream, while using a whisk like you mean it, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whipping it until it is emulsified (if you want to be boring you can use a blender).

Pour over veggies and stir well, chill at least two hours, re-stir and serve.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Guacomole

Guacamole is one of those "love/hate" dishes for some people.  I used to hate it until I tried actually GOOD guac and not some runny and bland Mexican fast food versions.  It also is full of healthy fats so even if watching calories, it's a great nutritious snack with some veggies or baked tortilla chips.

Unlike many popular recipes for this dish, I leave out the tomato and garlic  (though I might use a little tomato for photo garnish ). You can also leave out the onion if you don't eat onions.  The key is using the grocery store avocado (Hass)  which are ripe but not so ripe they are mushy.  The avocado should yield to a gentle squeeze of your hand. Friends don't let friends buy mushy avocados.  If all the store has are hard ones, take them home and put in a bag with a couple of bananas which will help ripen them in a day or two.)

4 medium ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/2  cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 and 1/2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin OR coriander
1 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper
4 dashes hot sauce (optional - I love Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke brand)


Use a spoon to scoop the avocado flesh into a medium sized serving bowl, discarding any browned bits.  Promptly add remaining ingredients (except hot sauce) and mash using a  fork, or potato masher until it's at your preferred texture. If using hot sauce, gently stir in after mashing - to taste

I often add a pinch more salt, but taste first and add extra salt after.

Store leftovers in a tall narrow container to reduced the top surface area that may brown.  Cover well with plastic wrap (note, if you use onions in yours, placing a good chunk on top of the guac will help reduce the browning, though you will wish to remove any small areas that do brown before serving leftover.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reduced Fat Crockpot Sloppy Joes

I decided to do something different than our usual pizza night as my husband had been fed pizza  several times lately while working late in a plant in another city that needed the advisory engineer.

I also had a busy work week and didn't want to fuss in the kitchen OR heat up the stove when it was 90 degrees out.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes!

But I wanted to make a lower fat version that, other than sweetener, had simple ingredients.

I know you can buy a can of the sloppy joe sauce at the store.  But have you ever looked at the ingredient list of the most popular brand?

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Less than 2% of: Salt Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Dehydrated Red and Green Bell Peppers, Chile Pepper, Tomato Fiber, Spices, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Garlic, Carob Bean Gum, Natural Flavors. 

I think I will pass. This went together as the ground beef cooked and smelled wonderful cooking in the crockpot.  You can also make this with cooked lentils, TVP, or Gardein "beef" crumbles for a veggie version.

In a cast iron pan cook ground sirloin or ground turkey breast with 1/2 chopped onion (or a small handful of chopped celery) until cooked.  Do not add seasoning as you are going to rinse when done to get rid of as much fat as possible.  When meat is cooked, spoon into a colander and rinse thorough under cool water.

While meat is cooking or after mix in a crockpot:

1 and 1/2 cups ketchup (or use tomato sauce if you are cutting back on sugar)
dash of salt and pepper
3 shakes crushed red pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Molasses
2 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs, with the "mother")
3/4 cup water (note:  this makes a fairly "sausy" sauce, if  you like it nice and thick reduce to 1/2 cup)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste.

Add in protein/onion mix and a large handful of chopped red, yellow, and green peppers

Cook on low until heated through and the veggies have softened, at least 4 hours.  Serve on toasted buns with salad.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Perfect Reheated Pizza - Just Add Cast Iron

Everyone loves pizza it seems - whether it's thin, thick, or Chicago style, regular or gluten free, meaty toppings or veggie.  Even while watching your calories, pizza makes a delicious meal, simply request that any high-calorie toppings be applied lightly and consider getting all or half of the pizza with extra vegetables. I also have the pizza cut in squares so I can get some smaller slices out of it and serve on a salad sized plate so it just LOOKS like a have a huge plate of pizza  (honest this tip of serving on small plates works).

I also love having leftover pizza, when the local pizzeria has an extra large size on sale.  But microwaved reheated pizza is just limp and heating it in the oven dries it all out.

What to do?

Get out your cast iron skillet.  

Heat the unoiled skillet on high for one minute.  Add pizza slices, making sure there is some space around them.  Heat for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes (this was a pizza with medium thickness).  Add 3-4 drops of water total to the bare parts of the pan and immediately cover with a heavy lid, turning heat down to medium-low and heat an additional 2-3 minutes.  (You'll soon learn what times work for your stove and favorite pizza).

The result of the quick heat on high followed by steam on lower heat while covered  is a very crisp perfect crust and moist cheesy pizza.  If you want to see more, click on the photos to enlarge.

If doing multiple batches for a family, put finished pizza slices on a cookie sheet, lightly tent with foil and place in a warm, not hot oven

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Review of CVS Gluten Free Cookies

I don't know if any of you have been into a CVS store and noticed they have their own line of gluten-free snacks/cookies.

Because I love both vanilla and shortbread I immediately snagged a box of  CVS brand Abound Gluten-Free Vanilla Shortbread Cookies. I regularly buy the CVS brand of various cosmetic and skin care products and am MORE than happy with them.

Plus I'm a big fan of cookies. Even the sometimes rock hard Dare Coconut ones. But let's just cut to the chase on my personal opinion of the CVS Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies.

The squirrels wouldn't eat them either.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Canadian Shake and Bake - Et j'ai aidé

Any of you over 50 who grew up in the US remember that Shake and Bake Commercial with the little girl with the thick Southern accent making dinner with her grandma with the words "And I helped!"

I've used Shake and Bake coating mix throughout my life on those nights as it's sort of a "comfort food" memory for me that the family likes.  I've even made my own DIY version to save money.  But there was one Shake and Bake product that was out about 10 years ago I really missed.  It was a GLAZE that was honey/mustard. It was really good on chicken and awesome on wings - only to be discontinued. I HATE mustard so the mustard flavor was beyond subtle, to me it tasted more like honey garlic.

I was seriously bummed.  My friends even requested it when coming over for cookouts where there would be wings.
Then this week, I'm over at the Canadian Favorites website ordering my quarterly fix of such products as Kraft Dinner (KD in Canada, a product that is way better than the U.S. versions of Kraft mac and cheese), Billy Bee Creamed Honey, Dare Cookies, and Canadian Coca Cola (which is made with sugar NOT High Fructose corn syrup like in the US) and I saw it -  Shake and Bake Honey Garlic Glaze.  A box of that SO went into my order.  I was afraid it would taste totally different than the original honey mustard, so I only bought one box, but it was just like the glaze I loved, though no mustard in the ingredients.  PLUS, absolutely NO fat and it's low in sugar.There's no MSG (though there are trace amounts of wheat, barley, and soy) and it didn't have a lot of chemicals or preservative type ingredients either. (that's another difference with the Kraft Dinner, the Canadian version doesn't have near the amount of "science experiment" sounding ingredients the US blue box version has).
The glazed chicken was a hit with my husband.  Working hard staining the new front steps, he's eaten four pieces of chicken in the last 18 hours and asked if there were any left. And even though I overcooked it slightly waiting on some stubborn cornbread to finish cooking it was still incredibly juicy!

Just like regular Shake and Bake you just put the seasoning in the provided bag, moisten your chicken (or veggie protein substitute) and bake until done. Directions are there in English and French.

Check out
I've always had great service from them, the products arriving UPS ground fresh and in good condition, and their prices are reasonable. I'm not Canadian but have a family member and two good friends who are so I developed some favorite products when visiting.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Montreal Bagels - A Package from St.-Viateur

 MMMM.  My Montreal bagels have arrived.  What is that? you may ask.

The Montreal bagel is a distinctive variety of handmade and wood-fired baked bagel. In contrast to the New York-style bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven.

Montreal bagels are still produced by hand and are usually baked in full view of the patrons.There are two predominant varieties: poppy seed and sesame seed.
Montreal bagels, like the similarly shaped New York bagel, have their roots in the Jewish communities of Europe. Food historians have allegedly traced the invention of the Montreal bagel to a trio of bakers who sold from a horse-drawn cart and eventually parted ways, only to end up founding the city’s two most venerated bagel shops, both still in business today. St.-Viateur and Fairmount. Montreal citizens are hardcore about their bagels to the point when a New York Style bakery opened up in Montreal it was out of business within a year!

The bagel dough includes egg and honey. Honey is also added to the water used for poaching the bagels before baking. I love honey and understand why jars of honey that are thousands of years old have been found in ancient excavated tombs in Egypt and at one time was considered a form of currency. When bagels are poached in this slurry of sweet honey and water, it adds something magical to the overall chewiness of the Montreal bagel as well as giving it its distinct color and crust.

The bagels are baked in a wood-fired oven which gives them their unique taste and texture, the fire licking each one gently so that each batch has its own unique hue, never overdone, never underdone. I like the handmade part as well, as we know the New York Style grocery bagels are made by giant machines with neither personality or souls (though my mechanical engineer husband would probably disagree).
Montreal-style bagel shops have opened in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary and US cities such as Chicago (Reno Restaurant and Bakery), Seattle, Houston, Portland, LA, and Burlington Vermont (home to Myers bagels), though outside of that location you aren't going to find them many places in the Northeast US due to the popularity of the New York style bagel.
I discovered Montreal bagels when work took me to that beautiful city and I happened upon St-. Viateur Bagel Bakery, loving the slightly sweet, almost smoky flavor from the wood-burning oven they are baked in that you wish you could bottle up and sell on Etsy and the chewy texture that wasn't like biting into a big ball of carbs (my experience with most store bought bagels). Lightly toasted, I have one for breakfast almost every day.  Both area Bakeries, St. Viateur and Fairmount have their devoted fans, but I'm partial to the slightly plumper though still nicely smoky St. Viateur bagels.

They are also significantly less in calories, sodium, and sugar than grocery store bagels and a Montreal bagel with a simple smear of cream cheese or sugar-free jam keeps me full until lunch. Although they are available in Chicago, the restaurant/bakery that makes them is a pretty good drive from where we live and parking for my extended cab long bed truck in that very popular shopping and restaurant area is really difficult. So I was SO happy to see that St.-Viateur in Montreal now sells the bagels online to BOTH the USA and Canada. Sure, the shipping was a bit pricey but even so, they were a dollar less per bagel (even with shipping) than the local bakery that makes them and 50 cents less than a bagel with cream cheese at the local donut chain. To order - click on the link below.

St.-Viateur just advertises the poppy seed or sesame seed on the website, but if you call for a quote, they can also ship Whole Wheat, Flax Seed, No Seed, All Dressed, Rosemary & Sea Salt and Multi Grain bagels. (call toll free 1-866-662-2435)

Comparing a very popular grocery store New York Style Brand to the St. Viateur seed bagel.

Calories:   260           120
Fat:               1 gr.          2.5 gram
Carbs          52 gr.        20 gram
Sodium     460 gr.         5 gr (yes, only 5 grams, no salt is added)
Fiber              1 gr.        2 gr.
Sugars            6 gr.        1 gr.

They don't ship to the US every day so check their website when the next order day.  Certainly, if you are in Montreal fresh and hot IS the way to go and the neighborhood the original store is in is worth a trip. It's a safe, clean area where classic Montreal mingles with the contemporary energy surrounding Quebec’s major metropolis. The distinct spiraling staircases, old-school cafes and colorful alleyways offer an altogether unique look into the cultural tapestry that is Montreal.