Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review - Faith in nature

I'm a big fan of natural products. They can however, come with quite a hefty price tag.  For an affordable range I do like Faith in nature.

There's no  SLS, SLES, parabens, GM ingredients, BPA plastic, or synthetic preservatives. You will however find ALS in some products such as the shampoo. This is a gentler surfactent than the SLS and SLES but there are better ones -  at a price.  Surfactents are chemicals that make the product foamy and do  the cleaning by acting as a detergent and wetting agent.  The ones found in most supermarket brands can be skin irritants and may have other negative health implications.  Some people will have problems with ALS, or may choose to avoid all sulfates.  I can't afford to buy top end natural products all the time and I find this range an acceptable compromise. The ALS is from natural sources but of course has been processed.  Both my daughter and I are very sensitive to chemicals. I find Faith in Nature fine, but she has such a sensitive scalp that there are very few shampoos she can use, and she does get sore with these. However, she is fine with their handwash.

I mainly use their shampoos and conditioners. The Jojoba one seems to suit my hair best and it leaves it feeling clean and soft. The chocolate one smells great though and seems to suit my hubby best. He also has sensitive skin and his eczema is irritated by a lot of shampoos but he gets on fine with this.



I do have other natural shampoos and conditioners that I like more but they cost a LOT more. I think the Faith in Nature ones are a really good product for the price.

We all like the hand-wash, and visitors have commented how nice it feels and smells.
I'm particularly keen on the grapefruit and orange scent




They also do a range of cleaning products, but I haven't tried those out as yet.

I have not been approached, or rewarded, by Faith in nature for this post. I am just sharing an honest opinion.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review - Simplicity bias tape maker

My daughter bought me this last Christmas as I have a desire to learn to make my own bunting and want to be able to make my own tapes.


First you have to cut lengths of fabric, twice as wide as the bias tape you want to make. The gizmo came with one head but you can (and my daughter did) get extra heads to make different widths.

.
You then take your strip and clip it onto the spindle and wind it on by hand:


The tricky part is threading the end of the tap into the tape head. I find pushing it through with a blunt ended darning needle in the top slot to be easiest.


Then, once the machine is turned on and warmed up, which only takes a few minutes, it's a very simple matter to place the tap across the ironing plate, bob the top on and press a button.



It took me a couple of goes to get everything just right, but once you have got the hang of it, it makes tape making a real doddle - and it's fun!




Monday, September 15, 2014

Juicing Ideas - Prettily Pink, Ruby Red,

If you are thinking of getting a juicer read my Omega review here: Omega Juicer Review

Prettily Pink

1/4 honeydew melon
1 handful of fresh raspberries
1 handful of fresh redcurrants

A lovely light summery juice. Helps to aid digestion, stimulate metabolism, and is loaded with antioxidants.

Ruby Red

1 beetroot, peeled
1 fist sized piece of red cabbage (juicing is a good way of using the tough core)
1 handful of raspberries
1 handful of redcurrants

A deep complex flavour. Another juice that is loaded with antioxidants - the deep red colour advertises this. Good for the liver and heart. The cabbage makes it especially good for colon health.

Green Goddess

2 apples
2 pears
1 mango
3 large handfuls of spinach
2 handfuls of fresh wheat grass
5-6 basil leaves



This has a sweet, fresh, tangy flavour. Basil is rich in vitamins A, K, and C, as well as minerals magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and even purported to be anti-ageing. Wheat grass is loaded with nutrients and health benefits include more energy, less food cravings, better circulation and digestion, and general detoxification.  This juice should also help sweeten the breath and reduce body odour!  You can easily grow your own wheat grass using a sprouting tray or if you prefer in a seed tray with compost. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review - Would Meyer honour a 10 year guarantee?

About 6 years ago I invested in some Meyer pans from Debenhams. They cost more than I usually paid for pans but they looked and felt gorgeous and came with a 10 year guarantee. I have loved using them ever since.

Six years on and 3 of the 4 pans are still good as new. I am a daily scratch cooker - no microwave in my kitchen - so they do get used lots and lots.



But sadly the forth pan is missing. Posted to Meyer under the guarantee as the handle had become very wobbly and water was starting to escape through the holes where the handle rivets were.

I had dug out the receipt and guarantee and read it. Seeing something about manufacturing fault versus normal wear and tear made me nervous. Would they say the handle coming loose was the latter so hard luck? Hubby popped the pan in a box and sent it off for me. These days it is so common to be fobbed off or ignored by companies when things go wrong that I didn't really expect much. I wouldn't have been surprised to never hear of my beloved but injured pan again.

But, lo and behold, a few days later this arrived:





With an accompanying letter apologising that the design has changed slightly (it looks to me as though they have improved the way the handle is fastened on - so clearly a company that learns lessons as well as giving excellent service) and for my inconvenience.

My new pan is lovely. My other pans are still brilliant. I am one very happy and impressed customer.

So well done Meyer!






Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recipe - Vegetable and Quorn Curry

This is a cheap easy recipe and the curry is tasty but not too hot.  The main expense would be stocking up on spices but I have kept it to ones that I use again and again in many recipes so the price per recipe is low.

Ingredients

3 shallots or 1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coconut oil (no need for the expensive virgin stuff for cooking, refined is fine for this and much cheaper - you can use another cooking oil if you prefer)
1" root ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds (use ground if you prefer)
1 tsp coriander seeds ( use ground if you prefer)
1 tsp turmeric
2 cardamon pods
2 cloves
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 large handfuls of any vegetables you want to use up  (on this occasion I used sweet potato and butternut squash as I often have some of these left over from other meals and they do take on curry flavours wonderfully) 
1 handful of quorn chicken-style pieces 
Water as required
50 g creamed coconut (1 sachet if you buy Patak's creamed coconut in a box - handy to avoid waste)
2 tsp garam masala
A few coriander leaves (optional - I had some anyway but wouldn't buy specially for this recipe)


Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute gently in the coconut oil until softened. Meanwhile grind the cumin and coriander seeds together in a pestle and morter if you are using whole seeds. Once the onions are softened stir in the cumin, coriander, and turmeric and saute gently for another couple of minutes.  Add the canned tomatoes, cardamon pods and cloves and stir well. Add the vegetables and quorn and enough water to cover. Simmer gently until the vegetables are the texture you like (this will depend on the veg you choose and your own preference).  Stir in the creamed coconut, garam masala, and coriander leaves and cook for a few more minutes.

I like mine served with brown rice.



Serves 4.






Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review - I love this Mason Cash Pestle and Mortar!

I bought myself a pestle and mortar years ago. A cheap little marble one from a supermarket. It has driven me nuts for years. It was too small - the spices kept jumping out. I could never grind them well enough. It felt fiddly and annoying. So I finally invested in a decent one recently from Mason Cash.

This one is made of unglazed stonewear (glazed on the outside for ease of cleaning) and costs around £12 for the medium which seems a perfect size to me. They do a smaller one at about a tenner and a larger one for about £14.

What can I say - I think it is a thing of absolute beauty. I could quite happily just look at it. The weight, feel, balance, everything about it screams quality and feels such a pleasure to use. Grinding spices is a joy now not an annoying chore. The pouring spout is great for accurately tipping the herbs/spices where you want them. I just love this kitchen item.



I have not been contacted in any way by Mason Cash - this is an honest opinion of an item I have bought myself.






Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recipe - Low Calorie Lettuce and Cabbage Soup

This is a very simple, very cheap, very low Calorie Recipe. And nice and light for a summer lunch.

Ingredients

4 handfuls of lettuce, roughly chopped
1 handful of cabbage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped chives
300 ml vegetable stock ( I make mine with Marigold Organic Gluten Free Bouillon Powder)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Notes: You can use any variety of lettuce and cabbage, this is a great way to use up salad that is starting to be past its best. The cabbage needs to be chopped as finely as you can so that it will cook almost as quickly as the lettuce.
Put the cabbage and 2 handfuls of the lettuce into a pan and pour on the stock. Add the chives and season. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blitz with a stick blender (or pour into a jug blender and blitz in there - allowing it to cool to a suitable temperature for your blender if necessary). Return to the pan and add the remaining lettuce and cook for another 10 minutes.
I like to have the texture of some 'unblitzed' leaves in my soup but if you prefer to have your soup all the same consistency then just add all the lettuce at the beginning.

Serves 1 generously (but the calories are so low you can afford to be generous!)






Sunday, July 27, 2014

July in the Garden - raspberries, redcurrants, and a lettuce thief.

A couple of years ago I bought two raspberry plants. They were only smallish and cost me a fiver for the pair. I now have a veritable raspberry jungle. They spread like mad once they get settled in. There is a bit of work to do tying them to canes, weeding, feeding, and watering but the crops we get are amazing. Definitely my best ever investment for the garden. The biggest job in July is picking them, there are so many!


They have been steadily ripening all month and I get a good-sized bowl full every single day.
If you check out the price of raspberries in the supermarket I hope you'll agree they are well worth the effort..  Hubby worked out July must have yielded about £60 worth at the price they sell per punnet on our market - and ours are organic so that's an undervaluation!






The other fruit I am have been harvesting this month is redcurrants. I bought a single bush a good few years ago and so far it produces more fruit each year. There's a little work in pruning and just a bit of feeding and watering but apart from that it has been trouble free. I have learned to pick them when they are really dark red or they are very tart indeed. But once really ripe they mix in deliciously with the raspberries.




Normally in July I would have salad crops such as lettuce to harvest. Unfortunately I had a little mishap. My veg beds are surrounded by 1 foot high fencing to keep our beloved guinea pig out. She's allowed the run of the rest of the garden. Sadly, after a weeding session I left a small gap in the barrier. Cue the case of the vanishing lettuces - the whole lot, which were young plants, gone - and one very smug looking, and rather rotund, guinea pig.  I have sown more but they are only tiny right now - will only get a late crop this year.

So, I have been buying those trays of growing lettuce that you can sit on the kitchen window-sill and cut from. Only, instead of putting the remains in the compost bin, when I have cut all I can, I have started planting the remains in the garden and watering and feeding along with the rest of the crops. Give it a week or so and hey presto it has grown back ready to cut again. I have cut this one four times now and it's still growing back again.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review - OV Natural Rosy Glow moisturiser

I have been using this little pot of moisturiser for around a week and I'm astonished to say it actually does give my, rather old, sallow, skin a lovely healthy glow.  It feels so much softer and healthier!


It cost £7.50 for a mini pot. It is really quite small but you do only need a little at a time. It's a good size for trying out.

You can check out OV naturals here:  Orchard View Naturals

UPDATE  Sadly OV naturals no longer make this moisturiser, but instead make a range of natural oils. I haven't tried them yet, but maybe they will make their way onto my Christmas wishlist.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Fish Pie (gluten free, dairy free, and potato free)

Per Person

1 cod fillet
Half a bell pepper
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
Tbsp olive oil
Half cup hot water
tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh dill
1 medium sweet potato
Salt and Black Pepper

Put the sweet potato into an oven at 180C / gas 4 and bake in its skin for 30-40 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, steam the fish until it just falls apart in flakes (about 10-15 mins)
Also, heat the olive oil in a shallow pan. Add the pepper and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Stir in the herbs and saute another minute or two. Add the hot water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick chunky sauce.
Flake the fish into a bowl and stir in the sauce.
Peel the cooked sweet potato, mash with a fork, and stir in the salt and pepper. Spread the sweet potato onto the fish mixture.

Place back into the oven (180C/gas4) for 15-20 minutes until piping hot.
Serve with vegetables of your choice. I particularly like mine with asparagus and broccoli




 RECIPE OF THE WEEK





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Buddha Beauty Company Reed Diffuser

I'm not a fan of the air-fresheners you can buy in the supermarket. To me they smell like the synthetic chemicals they contain - too strong and irritating. I like to use products in my home that are natural, organic, and 'green' as far as possible. But I do like my home to smell nice, and whilst nothing beats fresh air, it's not always possible to have a warm, fresh, summer breeze wafting through the house.

I have recently been trying the Vanilla Orchid Reed Diffuser from Buddha Beuaty Company.


I have to say I'm very pleased with this. The smell is subtle and warm and homely.  My hubby hates anything too 'perfumy' around the house but he's quite happy with this and other relatives have mentioned that it's a nice but gentle smell.

I like the look of it too.  It fits in pretty much anywhere in the house, and in fact has been moved around a bit, but is currently happily sitting in the bathroom. I find it has a quite comforting smell that I appreciate whether relaxing in the bath or popping in the bathroom just before bed.

I have had this little bottle on the go for a few weeks now and it is lasting ages.

You can check out their range here:  http://www.buddha-beauty.com/shop/organic-reed-diffusers-


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Recipe - raw vegan choc banana "ice-cream"

I make no apologies for the fact this is the easiest recipe in the world as it tastes fab and is healthy too!

1 banana
I tsp cacao powder
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup

Peel the banana and freeze it. I always buy loads of bananas and regularly freeze some when I have a few too many ripe ones - fantastic to use in lots of recipes. (more to come later)

Next day, or some time later....

allow the banana to defrost until it is just mashable with a fork. Mash, or for a creamier version give a quick whizz with a hnad-blender. Stir in the cacao and syrup and enjoy.






Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review - Yes to Carrots Pampering Conditioner

Just a quick review today.  One of my new favourite conditioners - 'Yes to Carrots' It costs about £7-8 for 5oo ml.  It is 99% natural and contains organic carrots and other organic fruits, vegetables and oils as well as dead sea mud.


You may be relieved to know it doesn't smell like carrots - smells lovely actually - but a nice natural smell, nothing over-powering. It is good and rich and thick but rinses out leaving hair not greasy or clogged but still squeaky clean. It does a good job of adding softness and shine. Leaves my hair feeling lovely. My only quibble is the top is a bit fiddly.  A little goes a long way.

Verdict

A good product for this price range. One I will be keen to use quite often.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recipe - Coconut Gooseberry Crumble (gluten and dairy free)

Ingredients

500g Gooseberries
90g Raw Cane Sugar
2 tbsp water

100g dessicated coconut
75g brown rice flour
85g coconut oil
75g coconut sugar 

Top and tail the gooseberries.  Put them into a good sized oven-proof dish, sprinkle over the raw can sugar, and add the water. 





Put the other ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the texture of breadcrumbs. Alternatively you can mix together in a bowl using a knife to 'cut' the fat into the other ingredients. Sprinkle the crumble topping on and cook at 180 degrees C (170 for a fan oven), gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June in the Garden - Gathering Gooseberries and feeding with Nettle Stew

Gathering Gooseberries


We put a very small gooseberry bush in last year and it is putting down runners and spreading quite well. It has been attacked by aphids, and got at by snails, so not had the best year.  But it has given us a crop which has more than covered the outlay of buying the bush.  I have been sending hubby out on an evening to catch the snails, and surrounding my plants with crushed eggshells, which does seem to be deterring them at last.  I continued to spray the aphids with soapnut liquid which seemed to keep them down a bit.  Then I started spotting ladybirds - the aphids' natural predator - and the aphid population very quickly declined.  (See my post from last month regarding the soapnuts - May in the Garden - Apple blossom, Aphids, and soapnuts )


Now into the kitchen to use those gooseberries - see my recipe here Coconut gooseberry crumble - gluten and dairy free

Earthing up Potatoes


I have only planted a few potatoes as myself and daughter cannot eat them - so these are for the boys. Due to health problems, and a long wet spring, I haven't been looking after them at all really. Earthing up - drawing soil up around the stems to encourage them to grow more underground stems and therefore more spuds should have been done some time ago and repeated by now. Ah well I gave it a bit of a go today and will see how they do.


Weed and Feed - Nettle Stew.


Apart from that it's been a case of weeding - lots of weeding. The wet weather has certainly agreed with the weeds.

 And feeding. Nettle leaves make for an excellent liquid fertiliser.  The nettle leaves need to be chopped up. If you have a lot, you can lay them out on the grass and run over them with a mower to do it.  You need to put them in  a large bucket or similar container and cover them with water and let them 'stew' for 3 or 4 weeks. Then you can add the liquid (which may be a tad smelly but the plants will love it) to water - about 1 part nettle stew to 10 parts water and use to feed your plants. Much cheaper than buying liquid fertiliser and 100% organic. You can achieve similar results using comfrey leaves and / or seaweed.  With any of your 'stews' you can keep adding more leaves and water to the brew once you have got it started.






Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gluten and dairy free Yorkshire Puddings

Being gluten and dairy free can't keep a Yorkshire woman away from her Yorkshire puds.  Although I like to have a healthy diet, there's got to be room in my life for treats and tradition - good for the soul.

I promise you these do rise and come pretty close to normal Yorkshires.

Ingredients

1/3 cup cornflour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
2 medium eggs
2 floz coconut milk (the sort you buy in a 1 litre carton)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 Celsius/gas mark 7.

Sieve the flours into a jug and season.  Add the eggs and milk and whisk vigorously to make a smooth batter.

Pour a little vegetable oil into the bottom of your tin/s - I use a six hole muffin tin.  Pop in the oven until the tins are piping hot. Then take them out and quickly pour your batter in. Return to the oven and cook for 15 mins or until well risen and golden. Don't open the oven door while they are cooking.






Saturday, June 14, 2014

Eddoes - an alternative to potatoes

My daughter and I are both intolerant to potatoes so we have been trying out some alternatives

This week we decided to try Eddoes, as they have them in Tesco quite often now.

They look like this:


To prepare them you need to boil them for about five mintues then let them cool before peeling them. I leave them on a sheet of kitchen roll as they can go a bit slimy if they don't dry out as they cool.  Once peeled you can treat them like potatoes. I tried them roasted first. They roasted a little bit quicker than potatoes, though they don't go quite the same colour as they are more a pure white to start with. They taste quite a lot like potato, but a rather waxy variety, so I decided that they were actually better mashed or boiled. My daughter however thought they were really good roasted.



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Healthy additions to my store cupboard

I'm always on the lookout for tasty helathy ingredients. Here are some I found this week:

Chicory Cup

A healthy and gluten free alternative to coffee. Most other coffee substitutes on the market seem to contain gluten, usually in the form of barley. This just contains ground chicory root. It doesn't taste quite like coffee but has a similar bitter taste. Probably the nearest thing I have tried. It is possible to buy coffee blends which have chicory added to this is not an entirely strange idea.  

Health benefits: Chicory root has a long standing reputaion as a cleansing medicinal herb. The Ancient Romans used it to help purify the blood and the Ancient Egyptians also consumed the root as a blood cleanser and liver detoxifier.
It aids digestion, and in particular helps with fat digestion by increasing bile production (important for me since I sustained major liver damage in an accident and lost my gall bladder). It boosts the immune system and helps reduce inflammation. It helps regulate blood sugar and aids elimination of toxins. It can also help with constipation. And of course, unlike coffee, can be drunk any time of day with no caffeine to cause insomnia.



I do find I prefer it with coconut milk (my milk substitute of choice) and a little sugar. Now, of course sugar is not the healthiest ingredient, so on to my next find...

Coconut Palm Sugar

An alternative to regular sugar, it looks and can be used like brown sugar, though it has a delightful sweet taste which is hard to describe.  It  performs pretty much exactly like regular sugar in baking etc.


Health benefits: It contains the minerals Iron, Calcium, Zinc and Potassium as well as some antioxidants. It contains inulin which helps regulate blood sugar by slowing down absorption of glucose. Studies, so far, suggest it has a lower GI than regular sugar (less likely to cause blood sugar spikes).

It is performing very well in use so far. I have some recipes to share shortly.

Chamomile and honey tea

OK, not really a new product, I have been drinking chamamile tea on and off for quite a while, but I'm impressed with the huge range of herbal and fruit teas available now. I find the Twinings range to be very tasty and good value. Definitely helpful for relaxing at bedtime.




Chlorella

Finally, one for the supplements box.  Chlorella is a simple algae plant. You can buy it in powdered form to add to smoothies, which I sometimes do. But in between times I like to take a couple of tablets to keep me topped up.



Health benefits: It is rich in vitamin B12, vitamins C and K, and folic acid. Studies have shown it offers protection from, and elimination of, certain environmental pollutents, particularly heavy metals such as mercury. It helps to clear dioxins from the body, a toxin often sadly found in breast milk.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A'kin shampoo and shower gel

There are lots of natural products that I like and then there are some I love. A'kin Lemongrass natual shampoo has just become a definite favourite.

After a serious accident and illness I actually had most of my hair fall out. It has started to grow back but the condition of it is appalling while at the same time my scalp is quite greasy. I had abandoned all hope of having hair I could even bear to put my fingers through.

After using this shampoo my head feels so clean, my hair is so soft, and I feel that much more human. I only use quite a small amount. This doesn't produce loads of lather, but if you are a fan of natural shampoos you will know that lather doesn't necesserily mean cleaner - most supermarket shampoos are full of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which makes masses of lather - but is a skin irritant and really not the best thing to clean your head or hair. There are lots of studies linking SLS to a whole host of health problems - have a google then make your own mind up. And if you don't think putting things on the outside of your body matters, think about drug patches, nicotine patches etc...

Ok, back on topic, off my soap (shampoo) box!  The shampoo has a lovely natural fresh citrussy smell, feels great, makes my hair squeaky clean, but soft, and I really do rate it. It costs about £8-9 a bottle which is outside my price range for everyday use but is definately on my treat list.




So of course I had very high hopes for the A'kin lavender body wash. Well. I'm not  as keen on the scent of lavendar as I am on the lemongrass but that's just personal preferance. It smells like lavendar which is ok. It does the job in the shower, in so much as it makes me feel clean and doesn't irritate my, very sensitive, skin. It's O.K. But at about a tenner for 225ml I rather wanted it to be more than OK.  I like to be quite generous with bodywash so it's not going to last me very long either. I wouldn't turn my nose up at it if I got some more as a pressie but I don't feel it is something I would buy very often.

Verdict - the body wash is OK but pricey. The shampoo is fabulous.