Sunday, 22 April 2012

Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes

When it's hot and humid outside, I love the sour, sweet and tangy taste of chilled grapefruit for a snack.  A grapefruit packs a healthy punch of benefits in a tiny little package.  An excellent source of vitamin C and fibre, the grapefruit can boost the immune system, reduce cholesterol and help the body increase metabolism and burn fat.  Unlike sweeter fruits, grapefruit has a low glycemic index meaning that it contains less naturally occurring sugars.  Grapefruit also has many antimicrobial properties which makes it great against bacteria in household cleaning and cleanses the digestive system and urinary tract.

I used to think that all grapefruit were the same, but now I know that there's a world of a difference in taste between the varieties.

White Grapefruit - sour similar to a lemon and has slightly more sugar than the other varieties.  Grown in parts of the Caribbean and California, it is high in fibre.

Pink Grapefruit - is actually a bred hybrid pomelo/orange and has antioxidant properties protecting the body from free-radicals.  This variety is mainly produced in Florida.

Ruby Red Grapefruit - grown in Texas and has the strongest aroma.  Began as a mutation of the pink grapefruit, but was soon developed to have a deep red colour and strong perfume.

My favourite is the Pink Grapefruit and lately, I've been buying them by the bagful!  Which is why I've been looking into some tasty and refreshing ways to incorporate my love for grapefruit into my love of baking.  I admit that this recipe isn't for everyone.  Some just don't like citrus in their baking.  I can really appreciate a good lemon cake or key lime pie, so after some tweaks to a recipe I found on Pinterest, I came up with my own version of Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes with a tangy butter cream frosting:

1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 grapefruit
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt

2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter (softened)
1 tbsp grapefruit juice

To begin, grate 1 grapefruit using a fine grater.

Juice the grapefruit by hand or using a juicer.  Reserve 1 tbsp of juice for the frosting and try not to get any pulp!

In a bowl or mixer, combine the sugar and zest with your fingers, then add egg, sour cream, oil, vanilla and grapefruit juice. 

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients until just incorporated; do not over mix!

Scoop batter into cupcake liners.  This is optional since the recipe is denser than your average cupcake, so it's not as crumbly and the liners aren't really needed.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Allow your cupcakes to cool for a few hours before frosting.  To prepare the frosting, beat the ingredients with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Just a thin layer of frosting will go a long way as the cupcakes are very tasty on their own.

As you bite into one, your taste buds will experience the tangy icing, the citrus flavour and then the sweet fruity cake.  Oh yum!

I love the different dimensions and hope you like it too!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Homemade Toothpaste

The switch from store bought to homemade toothpaste has been very difficult for me.  I really like the consistency, lather and taste of the store bought stuff, but it's full of bad stuff that I wouldn't touch with my hands, let alone put in my mouth!  I knew that brushing with plain baking soda would never go well for me even though it works great for so many others who don't mind a tooth powder.  I really wanted my toothpaste to be a true "paste"consistency.  After a few recipe tries, I think I have finally found something that I actually like:

Homemade Toothpaste
-3 tablespoons of baking soda
-3 tablespoons of coconut oil
-1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
-1/2 packet of Xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon (just a drop) of sweet almond oil (optional)

This recipe makes the equivalent of about 1 tube of toothpaste.

I started by mashing the baking soda and coconut oil in a shallow bowl with a fork.  Do not heat the mixture as it will compromise the texture.  Just be patient and use the fork until the coconut oil has completely blended with the baking soda.

Then, I mix in my peppermint extract and Xylitol packet.  You could also use peppermint essential oil, but I find the taste too strong.  You can find Xylitol at any health food store in the sweetener section.  It is a naturally occurring sweetener and it does not cause cavities the way sugar does because it is non-fermentable.  If you don't have or can't find Xylitol, you can substitute Stevia which is also a naturally derived sugar alternative, however, it does not have the same antimicrobial properties as Xylitol.  Xylitol has some plaque prevention effects on teeth since it starves the cavity causing bacteria and allows the tooth enamel to reminerilize naturally.

To get the right consistency, I added just a drop of sweet almond oil, but I think you can add any carrier oil that doesn't have a strong taste to it.  If you are happy with the consistency, you can skip the sweet almond oil.

At first, brushing with your homemade toothpaste will feel and taste weird, but it really grows on you - especially after your teeth start to look really really white!  I store my toothpaste in an airtight container and keep it on my bathroom counter; there's no need to refrigerate it.

Pepperminty fresh!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Guacamole Hummus

I know.

Seeing those 2 words together makes my heart feel good...

I got this idea from my latest addiction - Pinterest.  The newest social media website since Twitter... I never understood tweeting (Internet verb).  For those of you who have not been invited to Pinterest yet, what are you waiting for?!  If I could spend my afternoons drinking tea, reading and pinning (yet another Internet verb), my life would be complete.  Go check it out, but first you must try this amazing snack.

This is the easiest and quickest snack you will ever make.  And the results are so satisfying.  I start by getting all of my ingredients and finish up by turning my food processor on.  That's it.

This is what I used for my guacamole hummus:

-half a can of chick peas
-1 avocado
-1 clove of garlic
-1 small tomato
-squeeze of lime or lemon juice
-sea salt & pepper to taste

My recipe makes enough for a good sized snack for 2-3 people.  Please note, you can change or add any extra ingredients.  Some other yummy additions would be green onions, sun dried tomatoes, or even some olives.  You can customize this recipe to your tastes as long as you keep the avocado to chick pea ratio of 1:1 which gives it that perfect consistency.

You can use your guacamole hummus as a chip dip, to spread on crackers or use it on toast.  However you choose to eat your guacamole hummus, you should eat it while it's still fresh since it does not store well.  Without preservatives, avocado quickly turns brown, similar to apples. 

Once you taste this delishish combination of flavours, you won't be able to stop until it's all gone. 

Happy noming (another Internet verb...) nom nom nom!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Flax Curl Cream

Since beginning my quest to avoid products with harmful chemicals, I've been making and testing a lot of my own homemade skin and hair care.  My last post was a recipe I followed for making my own body balm.  It's very moisturizing and works way better than the store-bought stuff for my eczema and dry skin in winter.  

My next move is towards not using shampoo, conditioner, and any purchased hair products.  Shampoo became mainstream in the early 20th century, before that, people just used plain old bar soaps and water.  It worked for people back then, but advertising has led us all to believe that we need to buy specific shampoos and conditioners to have beautiful hair.  Today's shampoos contain chemicals like Methylisothiazolinone a powerful preservative and artificial colours and fragrances.  I'd rather go without, thank you!  So lately, I've been washing my hair with an organic shampoo bar and rinsing with apple cider vinegar or coconut milk to hydrate my hair.  But the one thing I haven't been able to go without is my mousse!  

So after trying a few other recipes, the best thing I found was this:

1 tablespoon whole brown flax seeds
1 cup water
3 drops essential oil

Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of whole brown flax seeds and keep stirring.  

Allow the seeds some time to boil so that they will start to release their gel.  Keep stirring occasionally so that the seeds don't stick to the bottom of the pot.  You will start to see a thin layer of film on the surface of your mixture.

Take it off the heat once you see the water getting white and milky.  Pour your mixture into a knee high stocking stretched over a bowl.  The stocking will sift out the seeds, but it will require some assistance.  

Using plastic or bamboo tongs, squeeze the cream out through the stocking and into a bowl.

Add a few drops of essential oil - I used sweet orange oil - smells nice!  I also added a few vitamin E capsules to make my hair healthy and increase the shine!  Use a whisk to mix.  

This recipe makes about a 1/2 cup of product.  Store yours in an airtight container and refrigerate it.  It will last about 3-4 weeks before you can consider it expired.

My curls are soft and bouncy now, no flakes too :)  I like it even more then my expensive mousse.  

You can wash your stocking with warm water and save the seeds for your next batch.  Use them twice to extract your own curl cream or make a second batch for a friend!  And the best thing is that flax seeds are so affordable, it will cost pennies for each batch of curl cream - $2.00 for a year of beautiful curls!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Bri's Beeswax Body Balm

Lately, I've been researching the many harmful chemicals in various cosmetic and beauty products.  I was so alarmed to find that many Canadian products contain Parabens, BHA and Formaldehyde!  Some of these chemicals may interfere with reproductive functions and are known to contaminate our bodies and brains and cause cancerous tumours.  Of course, after reading, I checked all of my cosmetic products and almost everything I own contains these ingredients!!!  So, I am making an effort to replace my body wash, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and other products with human-friendly alternatives.  However, since making a few shopping trips to the drug store and health food store, I've realized that there aren't very many affordable and readily available options... so I am making my own!

Beeswax Body Balm
1/2 cup Beeswax
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Almond Oil
5-6 Vitamin E capsules

To make the balm, you need an old jar, an old rag and an old pot.  You don't want to use anything new or valuable because the beeswax, when liquid, will stain/coat any hard or soft surface and cannot be washed off.  Please use caution and be careful not to ruin your clothes!

Start with half a cup of beeswax: it should be pure 100% beeswax that has been filtered.  Beeswax locks in moisture and protects your skin from the environment.  I bought my raw beeswax unfiltered from a honey farm at about $1 per 1 cup and filtered it myself before I started.  Use your hands to break up the wax and place it in the jar.  Make a homemade double boiler by filling a pot with water and placing the wax jar in the centre.  Turn your burner on high to bring the water to a boil.

When the wax starts to melt, add your half cup of coconut oil: make sure to use 100% pure virgin coconut oil (it looks like Crisco or lard).  Coconut oil is an excellent skin conditioner and helps in the re-growth of damaged cells.  You can get coconut oil at any health food store or international food store.  The coconut oil will start to melt into the beeswax - stir every 5 minutes.

Finally, add half a cup of olive oil and half a cup almond oil.  I used, extra virgin olive oil since it restores your skin to a firmer and smoother state.  Sweet almond oil softens the skin and keeps it feeling great.  Keep stirring until the whole mixture is clearly liquid and remove from double boiler. 

Use a scissor to cut the Vitamin E supplements; squeeze the vitamin E into the mixture and stir.  I decided to add vitamin E to my balm for it's anti-aging and antioxident properties.  Vitamin E also helps to reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks!  Allow your mixture to cool and stir every 10 minutes. 

You will see the balm begin to solidify from the bottom all the way to the top.  Eventually, the whole mixture will reach a thick consistency and you can scoop it into smaller cosmetic jars while it is still warm.  I used small jam jars with mason jar lids.

I really love the smell and the creamy texture of my new balm, but what I love most is that I know exactly what the ingredients are and I know it's good for my skin (and completely edible LOL!).  My hands and elbows are smooth and it was really fun to make! 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Amanda's Cherry Cheesecake

Seeing as my sister has been baking cakes for years, I guess its time to start giving her a bit of credit.  Amanda has made some really impressive cakes, cookie monster cupcakes, thanksgiving cupcakes and even a casino cake! But she most often makes my favourite - cheesecake!  This recipe came from my mothers' Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook.  Please note that you should use a spring form pan and allow your ingredients to become room temperature before you begin.  Cream cheese should stay out for at least 2 hours before you start mixing.

Combine the crumbs, sugar and margarine and press evenly into the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.  Keep a close eye on your crumbs; they should not get any darker.

Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until blended.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix until they are just incorporated.  DO NOT OVER MIX cheesecake to prevent it from cracking down the middle after baking.

Scoop the batter onto the pre-baked crust and smooth it over using a spatula or large spoon.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 250 degrees for 25 minutes.  Our cheesecake was clearly over mixed and it cracked pretty badly.  It's easy to get carried away with the mixing...

Allow your cake to cool completely and then loosen from the rim of the pan using a knife.  Thankfully, the cracks aren't evident after topping with cherry pie filling and a bit of whipped cream!  You can also try blueberry pie filling or any other fruit topping.  Keep your cheesecake refrigerated until served :)

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Mommy's Easy Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is a traditional desert made for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It tastes good and it makes the whole house smell warm and spicy.  My mom makes the most amazing pumpkin pie ever and surprisingly, it's super easy to make!  You don't need a million bowls and spoons and the cleanup is fast - all you need is a good blender. 

I always make my pastry a head of time and refridgerate it - for this recipe you will need two 9 inch pie pastries.  No top crusts necessary :)

1 and 1/2 cups of mashed pure pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 eggs
1 and 1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all these ingredients in a blender until you have a well mixed liquid batter.

Fill your pie shells at the oven - right on the rack if possible!  Pour carefully straight from the blender for a neat looking pie.  Try not to spill or splatter on the crust.

Bake your pies for 40-50 minutes until they begin to brown just a little in the centre. 

Allow your pies to cool at least an hour before cutting slices.  The longer you let the pie to settle, the better the slices will hold their shape.  Serve your pie with whipped cream topping!