Gluten-Free Sweet Pumpkin Bread

>> Friday, August 29, 2014

Here we go with the pumpkin! Expect a lot of it from me (and everyone else) for the next several months! I couldn't resist picking up a can of my favorite orange puree the last time I visited the store. We adore our Pumpkin Garlic Knots and Brie-Stuffed Pumpkin Garlic Rolls, among many other pumpkin-centric recipes. Don't you?

When I found myself without flour, I made a bread that didn't require any! It's a sweet, quick bread that contains no refined sugar, flour, or dairy/eggs. So, it's suitable for a variety of diets and preferences. We all deserve a little fall indulgence. (Didn't you hear? It's fall already, at least in my mind.)

Gluten-free, vegan, naturally sweetened, and perfect for breakfast, etc.

What you'll need . . . 
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or other nondairy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons hot water (flax egg)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups FINE GRIND cornmeal*
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup gf rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • pinch salt
  • Handful semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
* I originally didn't specify the cornmeal I used -- but it was a fine grind variety. If you use a coarser meal, it will be more likely to crumble.

Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard loaf pan with olive or coconut oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together your wet ingredients -- pumpkin, milk, vanilla, flax egg, maple syrup, and oil. 
  3. In another bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients and then toss them into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix with a spatula until just moistened.
  4. Transfer to your prepared loaf pan and smooth down until even. 
  5. Bake for 1 hour, checking periodically. Should be set in the center when inserting a toothpick. If it doesn't come out clean, continue to cook for another 5 or 10 minutes.
  6. Let cool before serving.

I think walnuts would be an excellent addition to this recipe, I just didn't have any on hand. You can also substitute in any other purees you'd like, including applesauce, which would produce a lovely loaf. Oh, and I have another delicious vegan + gluten-free recipe coming up next week! It's a fall-ish cookie hybrid of oatmeal cinnamon raison + peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.


// My Writing, Elsewhere:

How To Eat Well On Just $20/Week
6 Health + Fitness Rules That Have Changed
10 Things Healthy People DO NOT Have In Their Homes
Satisfying Stir-Fries in 20 Minutes Or Fewer
Tips For Getting the Home Loan You Want
12 Delicious Nut Butter Recipes to Make At Home
7 Tricks For Better Posture Today!
12 Herbs and Spices Every Pantry Should Have
5 Smart Ways To Save on Back-To-School Clothing
4 Workout Recovery Essentials For a Healthy Body
Make 15 Junk Food Favorites Healthier + Cheaper At Home

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Homesteading: Cleaning With Vinegar

>> Thursday, August 28, 2014

I just stocked up on yet another gigantic container of incredibly inexpensive, non-toxic white vinegar. We use vinegar mostly for cooking and cleaning purposes in our home. It's a simple solution made up of mostly acetic acid (produced by fermented grain) and water.


#1: All-Purpose Cleaner -- Just fill up half a spray bottle with vinegar and the rest with water and maybe a few essential oil drops. Give a good shake and use for cleaning countertops, tabletops, and -- really -- anywhere else.

#2: Window Cleaner -- I add a bit of alcohol to the all-purpose mix (a few tablespoons works -- I make a smaller spray bottle of it for this purpose) and that helps windows stay streak-free!

#3: Dish Rinse -- I mentioned in our 5 Green Cleaners That Actually Work post that we make our own dishwasher detergent. We fill our rinse basin with vinegar mixed with essential oils. Works like a charm.

#4: Deodorizer -- Instead of spritzing air freshener around, we rely on vinegar to take tough odors out of our spaces. You can leave a cup of vinegar in a room overnight for tough odors or even spritz on carpet or other gross smells. The initial vinegar smell does go away! (And here are more ways to deodorize with vinegar.)

#5: Laundry Boost -- I often add 1/2 cup of vinegar to our laundry loads. It helps preserve colors, works as a fabric softener, helps rinse detergent clean, and even  lessens static cling!

#6: Drain De-Clogger -- If I notice a slow drain, I combine 1 cup of baking soda with 2 cups boiling water plus 1 cup vinegar. You'll get some bubbling action that might encourage those clogs to stay clear.

#7: Pots + Pans Cleaner -- We have a few stainless steel pots and pans, and they're always attracting burn marks and grime. I'll do a separate post on this one, but I put around 1 cup of vinegar with a couple tablespoons of baking soda and additional water in the pan and bring to a boil. Then I wipe it out with a cloth!

#8: Microwave Cleaner -- We pulled our microwave back out again now that we have space. And cleaning it is easy! I put 1 cup of water plus about 1/4 cup of vinegar inside and heat for around 5 minutes on high. Then I just wipe out with a cloth.

#9: Disinfect Cutting Board -- This is a biggie! Instead of using my all-purpose cleaner on our cutting boards, I use full strength vinegar to disinfect after each use. A little splash goes a long way.

#10: Sticker Stopper -- Have a sticker stuck on your floor or someplace else? Soak the thing with vinegar for 15 minutes and then remove with your nail, a coin or credit card.

#11: Bathtub Cleaner, Etc. -- I also use full-strength vinegar in our bathroom for most cleaning (tub, tiles, shower surround, sink. For tough jobs, I combine with our natural scouring scrub.

#12: Freshen Clothes -- I wrote an article titled You're Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What To Do Instead), and ever since -- I've been going longer between loads. If I've only gently worn something, I sometimes spritz it with a mixture of 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water and essential oils of my choosing. It acts like a fabric softener. Again, the initial vinegar smell dissipates.

#13: Veggie Wash -- If you don't like the Castile Soap Method for cleaning fruits and vegetables, you can make an easy spray wash using around 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar (hmm, sounds a lot like the dilution above -- score for multi-purpose!)

#14: Cat Deterrent -- I'm not 100% sure this works yet, but we've started using a little vinegar spritz as a deterrent for our cats to stay off our leather couch and dining room table. I hear it also works outdoors in gardens, etc. Here's where I found this trick.

#15: Ant Deterrent -- I discovered this trick when I was researching an article for Wise Bread. Basically, if you see a trail of ants entering your home, spritz the path with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to erase their scent trails.


You can pick up a big jug of distilled white vinegar at your grocery or hardware store. I actually found our cheapest bet at Lowe's the other day -- and it was specifically a cleaning grade kind. Otherwise, you might notice a lot of spritzing and spraying.

3-pack of 24-ounce Sprayers -- This pack is helpful if you want to have a couple different dilutions at your disposal. For example, you could make one up of the all-purpose cleaner, the laundry/veggie wash in another, and window cleaner. Just label clearly so no mix-ups!

Glass Spray Bottle -- If you'd prefer to go the glass route, this bottle looks like a great buy. It has two different spray settings (mist or stream).

Essential Oils -- Pretty much any essential oil will go well with vinegar. Yeah, the vinegar adds another note to the scent. I like using lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus. I use lots of essential oils in cleaning to enhance the antimicrobial properties and add pleasing scents, and it only take a few drops!

What's the craziest way you use vinegar in home cleaning?


DIY Natural Lotion Cubes
Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent
5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap

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Rustic Creamy Tomato Soup

>> Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is your garden bursting with tomatoes? Ours sure is. We actually didn't plant anything this year because we were moving during the prime preparation season. The first day after we'd settled into our new place, we noticed that the previous owners had planted an entire raised bed garden's worth of cherry tomatoes.

We have several pints a day ripening up. And our CSA is proving some heirlooms of all different varieties. Take a look at this bounty! Talk about local color, right?

In the past, I've made Tangy BBQ Sauce to freeze, I've slow roasted tomatoes to marry with warm quinoa salad, and I've even combined tomatoes with white wine for a Boozy + Bold Chunky Pasta Sauce. I've also made various tomato soup recipes, but I've never quite gotten the flavor right. I love Panera's thick and creamy tomato soup, so I decided I'd try my best to replicate it as closely as possible.

I actually succeeded using a lazy roux.

And now you can, too!

Vegan option. Makes 6 cups of soup.

What you'll need . . .
  • 5 cups chopped assorted tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance or butter
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or substitute)
  • 1/4 Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
  • salt + pepper to taste
Method . . .
  1. Chop tomatoes coarsely (I left the cores in and skin on, hence the "rustic" title) and put them in a large, non-reactive stockpot with the onions, garlic, water, and soy sauce. 
  2. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling, then bring down to a simmer and cook for 15-30 minutes, smashing with a spoon to release juices and break up fruit.
  3. Let cool and then transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. (It will still be somewhat chunky because the skin is in there -- but that's good!)
  4. In you stock pot, melt the Earth Balance or butter and combine it with the flour. Whisk and then add in the milk a little at a time until it makes a thick paste. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Then add your pureed soup in batches, whisking to combine with this roux.
  6. Then add in your Parmesan or nutritional yeast.
  7. Let cook on the stove and have the flavors mingle for and 15 minutes or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with delicious crusty no-knead loaf.

My soup turned out orange because I used so many different color tomatoes, but yours might be a rich red, a bright yellow, or even green, depending on which fruits you use. Whatever the case, we ate one Ball jar up right away and froze the other (after letting it cool completely in the glass jar) to eat later.

Which reminds me! I'm doing another freezer month of dinners and other foods, hopefully in time for September. I'm planning my big cook for this weekend, and I hope to share the recipes in the weeks following. It's that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the weather's getting cooler, and having some extra meals stocked up just makes sense.

What's your favorite way to use up tomatoes?

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DIY + Natural Lotion Cubes

>> Monday, August 25, 2014

When I was a teenager, I was absolutely obsessed with lotions and sprays from Bath + Body Works. I'd cover myself head to toe in all their smelliest concoctions even if my legs burned from the lotion after shaving. As I've gotten older, I've decided against all the chemicals in those types of products and -- instead -- skipped lotion in my routine.

My friend shared her homemade lotion recipe with me several months ago. I've been hooked on making variations ever since. Seriously! Making body care products at home is as easy as it is satisfying.

Note: I used tea tree oil in this "recipe" because it's good for the skin. It's naturally antibacterial and also soothing. I'm actually hoping to modify this recipe in the future to make a cube specifically good for acne and/or cuts, etc. Be advised if you have very sensitive skin that you'll want to use fewer drops of tea tree oil since it can cause some irritation -- or substitute in your favorite essential oil, like lavender.

Make five totally customizable 1-ounce cubes.

What you'll need . . . 
* I had considered searching for beeswax locally, but I was pleased to find organic, hand-poured beeswax on Amazon from the nearby Pocono Mountains for around $1/ounce.
** Use your favorite essential oil.

Method . . . 
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place a smaller pot inside (like a double-boiler). You'll melt everything safely in here since the beeswax is flammable and can't take the direct heat.
  2. Drop in your shea butter and oil. Grate your beeswax finely to facilitate faster melting.
  3. Then just stir until everything is well incorporated and take off the heat for a minute or two.
  4. Add your essential oil drops and whatever other add-ins you'd like.
  5. Pour into molds and transfer to your refrigerator to fully set. Then pop out of molds and store in a baggie or airtight container.

I know shea and coconut oil can be used AS-IS for moisturizing skin -- but it's fun to have them in bar form. They'd make great gifts, so I'm going to keep fine-tuning in time for the holidays. Oh, and now that I have some beeswax on hand, I can finally make my own lip balm and a few other projects (candles, etc.) I've been wanting to try.

Have you ever made lotion at home?


Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent
5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent

>> Thursday, August 21, 2014

I've tried lots of DIY laundry detergent recipes. Some of them have worked. Some of them haven't. A month or so ago, we ran out of Charlie's Laundry Soap, which is what we had been using, and I wanted to give the whole homemade route another try before buying more (though Charlie's works beautifully on clothes AND cloth diapers!).

Here's the best detergent I've ever made!


Enough for around 60 loads, use 1 cup detergent per load.

What you'll need . . .
* You can also use standard Fels-Naptha soap. I use Dr. Bronners because it has the essential oils in it already and I just like it better.

Method . . .
  1. Grate your bar of soap (way easier than it sounds). Then pour 6 cups of water into your stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and melt soap -- stirring often.
  2. Pour the rest of your water into your bucket or container and dissolve the borax and washing soda. Then pour in your soap and stir well.
  3. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours before using. 


  • We store our detergent in an old Igloo 5-gallon Jug. It works wonderfully!
  • You'll want to stir around the detergent from time to time because it will separate just a bit. Lumps are OK. They will dissolve during the wash cycle.
  • To wash nasty running clothes, we toss in a scoop of OxiClean Free for good measure and extra smell-fighting power.
  • We have a water softener, so I'm not sure how this detergent works with hard water. You may wish to add some salt to your mix?
  • My clothes are just slightly more stiff after washing with homemade detergents, so -- long ago -- I invested in a pair of those dryer balls. They fluff laundry the natural way without dryer sheets.
We've had great success using this detergent at home. It cuts through stains just about as well as the other detergents we've used, but at a fraction of the price (this is less than 10 cents per load!). I suppose I could make a more concentrated version of it, but -- for now -- I'll stick with what's working.

What's your favorite homemade laundry detergent recipe?

And for more healthy ways to green your home + save money, check out our Homesteading section. I'm really excited to put some focus on this area of our lives. We learn as we go, but the experiments have been well worth the results!

5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Roasted Tomatillo Corn Salsa

>> Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I have a bunch of healthy home stuff I want to write (laundry detergent recipes, for example), but I also feel like I need to push some of my seasonal recipes up so they're out there before the produce is, gulp, gone. Like many of our eats these days, this Roasted Tomatillo Corn Salsa recipe was entirely inspired by our latest CSA basket. It is mild and sweet, so it's a nice change from tomato-based salsas.

We love pairing it with our Veggie Loaded Quesadillas!

Just 5 ingredients. Makes five 8-ounce jelly jars perfect for freezing!

What you'll need . . . 
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels 
  • 16 medium tomatillos 
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bell pepper or a mix of other peppers
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Up to 1 cup water 
Method . . . 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Chop all ingredients coarsely and place on a well-oiled + rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Then mix around and bake another 15-20 minutes. Stir again and finish with another 15-20 minute bake, until lightly browned. 
  3. Place everything in a food processor (you may need to scoop to get some liquid) and pulse a few times with salt, pepper, and water. I added 1/4 cup at a time until I reached my desired consistency (around 3/4 cup).
  4. Spoon out into small Ball jars with 1+ inches of headroom. Use right away or freeze for up to 1 year. 
  5. To freeze just let salsa cool completely, then place a top on your jars and place in your freezer. More info on freezing in glass jars -- as well as some FAQ about my freezing process.


Freezing in-season foods for the off-season?

Yes. Please. Let's capture the goodness while we still can!

What's your favorite way to preserve foods?

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Slow Cooker: Yellow Split Pea Soup

>> Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's crock pot season again! I'm so excited to pull my favorite appliance out from its hiding place and start using it to make anything from my old favorites, like Apple + Pumpkin Spice Stew, to new recipes like this one. (Don't forget to check out my 10 Tips for Slow Cooker Perfection!)

Have you tried yellow split peas? There's not much difference between the green and yellow varieties, though yellow is the dominant of the bunch. Split peas are great for vegetarians, as they are both low in fat and high in protein. They also contain quite a bit of fiber, which we all need -- that's for sure.

Made easy in your slow cooker!

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/2 cups yellow split peas (dry)*
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups tomatillos, chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
* You can use other varieties of split peas in this recipe with no problem.

Method . . .
  1. Place all ingredients -- except curry powder, salt, and pepper -- in your crock pot and stir in the liquids last. You may wish to add another cup of water to fill to the top.
  2. Cook for 4-6 hours on high, until split peas have softened considerably and become mushy.
  3. Then in the last hour or so of cooking, add in the curry powder and season with he salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with crusty sourdough bread. 

My most recent loaf turned out beautifully. I'll write more about it soon! Basically, it shouldn't have worked . . . but it did. And I was ever-so thankful. I'll also be sure to share some thoughts on why the sourdough method I followed this time around feels kind of wasteful.

What's your favorite slow cooker recipe?

Here are more to try:
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Homemade Almond Milk Trick

>> Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Homemade Almond Milk post I wrote last month is one of the more popular things I've published in a while. So, I thought it would be fitting to do a quick follow-up on a spankin' new method I'm using these days that has transformed the process for me. Full disclosure: I am not the first person in the world to use this method . . . but I honestly (!) came up with it on my own on the long car ride back from our beach vacation.

I thought I was brilliant.
A culinary trailblazer.
And . . .

I came home, looked it up, and see that m.a.n.y other people also choose to forgo the messy cheesecloth squeezing and seemingly superfluous nut milk bags and -- instead -- use a French press for a simple straining solution.


Well, you follow the exact same instructions from the Homemade Almond Milk post (there's a recipe for a tasty chocolate almond milk drink in there too!). But instead of pouring tirelessly in little batches into the cheesecloth and squeezing . . . you pour as much as you can into a French press and, well, PRESS. Press hard.

I had to do mine in two batches, but the milk squeezed through the metal mesh so well. I had the same, dry almond pulp left to put in baked goods. And the same creamy beverage to enjoy. Bonus? Afterward, you can rinse + make coffee with your French press and combine the two for a heavenly treat.

Or -- my favorite -- pour into Homemade Muesli!

How else do you use a French press? 

I've read it makes rinsing quinoa quite easy and can even be a good solution for infusing cooking oils with herbs/etc. I love finding simple kitchen-hacks using stuff we already own! Stephen doesn't like when I constantly use his favorite coffeemaker, though, so I may need to get a new one just for me. I like this compact 3-cup press, which might be perfect for smaller jobs.

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


10 Seconds Too Many

>> Friday, August 15, 2014

The thing is . . . 5Ks are always (always!) the hardest for me. Speed isn't my forte, especially since I don't engage in much formal speed work. Rather, I do surges -- fartleks -- whenever the mood strikes. Some weeks that's often. Others, not so much. As you guys know, I've been training on lots of hills lately, so I had some high hopes for my finish time at last night's Women's Distance Festival 5K.

Namely, I wanted to (finally) break 22 minutes.

My best friend from home -- Erin -- started running in January. She's been doing all sorts of races lately, but since she lives in the endless, winding mountains of PA, they've all been far too steep or on tricky terrain (trails, etc.). So, she drove up to join me and see how she might do on a flat(ish), fast course. It was such a treat -- and we both turned 31 within a few days of one another, so I guess you'd call it our birthday celebration.

I think the reason 5Ks wreck my soul has something everything to do with the intensity of them. Since I'm relatively low-key with my training, having to immediately start at my gut-wrenching pace and maintain it as long as possible doesn't sit well with me or my psyche.

It's all just too much!
It's all too painful!
It's all too split-second!

I thought maybe I had 21:XX in my grasp last night when I hit the first mile at 6:50. All things holy! That amazed me. Though I don't race much anymore, I still train hard and run consistently (4-5 days each week) throughout the year. I've just reached this place with my running over the last several years where I don't need race medals and finish line photos to feel strong, steady, and confident in my abilities.

But hearing a fast mile time doesn't hurt every now and again.

I'll write more about the play-by-play on WalkJogRun for next week, but -- spoiler alert -- I didn't meet my goal. I finished in 22:09 or 7:08/mile. That's a PR by 9 seconds and only 10 seconds away from my goal, but certainly 10 seconds too many. So, of course, I really want to try again in the next couple weeks to see if I can tweak a few things to get my time.

We shall see.

Now, Ada doesn't come to a lot of our races. I run mostly half marathons, and that's just too long for her to sit still. Stephen did bring her to this one because it's all women + lots of other kids are there to play + celebrate the fine sport of women's running. OK. The kids have absolutely no idea what's going on beyond the race before them. They just know there's a sand box, lots of baked goods and candy, and that all the dads watching let them get away with a bit more when their moms are occupied with the race.

This year was special, though. Ada "laced up" to the start of her very first race. She was so excited! I was so proud! This was to be such an amazing moment for the two of us to share. A passing of the torch! Proof that I'm rubbing off on her. That she's getting some athletic prowess from my amazingly inspiring abilities. And all that jazz.

Or not. The poor thing ran for around 15 seconds and then waved hello to a cute puppy. Puppies are her downfall. She loves them to pieces. And after she gave an enthusiastic greeting, BAM. Ada fell teeth-first into the pavement. Crying ensued. I felt . . . terrible. But it was no one's fault. She escaped physically unharmed and a cookie cheered her up quickly.

At least we got a great photo.

(We all know how photos don't tell the whole story!)

For both of us, there's always next year! And I want to give Erin a hearty congratulations. She SMASHED her 5K time by like two full minutes.

How do you feel about 5Ks? Do you have a race event nemesis? 

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Cleaning Produce the Natural Way

>> Thursday, August 14, 2014

We all know that a lot of store-bought produce is covered in pesticides and other chemicals. Even organics aren't immune to some nasty stuff, and when foods come straight from the ground -- there's still dirt to contend with. Thankfully, there's an easy solution that costs only pennies. That's right! You don't need those bottles of mass-produced produce wash to eat clean -- quite literally!

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't always give much thought to washing my fruits and vegetables. I used to grab an apple for lunch and then buff it on my shirt sleeve. Now that I have a hungry toddler running around, I certainly have changed my tune. And this process is so simple, it's really become quite automatic.

Note: For greens and berries I follow a different method. I'll be sure to cover that another day.


I used to think I needed to wash all my produce in bulk before putting everything in the fridge, but I've since read that washing before storage can promote bacterial growth. So, I wash as I use and cook. As far as what: I tend to wash notoriously dirty fruits and veggies more than others. Carrots and parsnips are obvious choices. Potatoes can get quite funky. Apples, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, etc.

You know, the heartier stuff. Oh, and be sure to inspect your foods to look for signs of spoilage -- mold, etc. -- weed out the bad and keep the good.


Make sure your kitchen sink is clean or place a large bowl/basin down and fill it with cold tap water. Toss whatever you wish to wash inside. If I have really dirty fruit and veggies, I also toss in (up to) a quarter cup of vinegar for good measure.

A splash will do for smaller loads.


On my list of Castile Soap Uses, I divulged that we use castile in our foaming hand wash dispensers. (It works beautifully!) We also use it to clean veggies, but if a whole bottle isn't nearby, I squirt a few foaming squirt-fuls into my soaking dish and mix around. Then I let the whole thing soak for a few minutes, maybe 5 total.

That's really all it takes to help dissolve the dirt and grime.


I then rinse everything quickly with some fresh water (to get the soap and vinegar off, etc.) and take a damp tea towel and scrub my veggies until they are as clean as I can get them. I sometimes use a toothbrush on potatoes. And just wait till you see what I used these delicious local carrots in -- a yellow split pea soup!

So delicious . . .

Does this look like your produce-washing process?

Have you always taken time to wash your fruits and veggies?

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Cookie Dough Stuffed Cupcakes

>> Wednesday, August 13, 2014

You see . . . Pinterest wasn't a thing when I started blogging many (many) years ago. I get aggravated at how food blogging (and everything else, it seems) has become this ever-escalating let's-see-who-can-come-up-with-the-craziest X, Y, or Z. In other ways, however, I get struck by genius at every turn. Yeah, as much as I hate to admit it, Pinterest gives me inspiration, even for the foods I share on my own blog because sometimes I like to push the limits.

So, I'm two weeks too late for this to officially be a birthday cake. Still, I wanted to whisk up something delicious for dessert to celebrate the big 3-1. And I took two existing recipes on this site and used this stuffed cupcake recipe (thanks for sharing, Tyler + Pinterest gods) as my inspiration.

Sprinkles = optional, but highly recommended.

with a chunky peanut butter + coconut "fudge" frosting

What you'll need . . . 
* These peanut butter + chocolate + banana stuffed cupcakes are delicious too! You should try them! As a note: I used CHUNKY peanut butter in the frosting this time around.

Method . . .
  1. Make your cookie dough and then spoon out into 12 equal sized balls. Freeze for a couple hours until hardened.
  2. In the meantime, make your cupcake batter. If you're waiting for everything to freeze, place it in the fridge while you wait. Just be sure to take it out 20 minutes or so before baking.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake pan with paper liners, then fill each 2/3 full + otherwise evenly distribute cupcake batter.
  4. Place one frozen cookie dough ball into each cupcake, then place in the oven for 10 minutes. Then rotate 180 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Until toothpick inserted into the cupcake (not the cookie dough) comes out clean.
  5. Take cupcakes out of the oven to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Then spread frosting and decorate however you wish. I like to keep my cupcakes in the refrigerator, which makes the frosting turn into that refrigerator fudge consistency. Do whatever you like. It's your party!
// YUM

This recipe makes 12 large cupcakes for a fraction of the cost they'd be at the bakery. No, really. I can't believe how much a good cupcake costs these days. I'd much rather make my own. And if you really strip this recipe/process down, you'll see it's is far less daunting than it seems.

I promise.

What sweet or savory treat did you eat to celebrate your birthday this year?

And be sure to check out another amazingly fun (never)homemaker hybrid recipe -- Half Dozen Chocolate + Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies. Might be one of my favorites . . . ever.

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Sourdough Starter, Try 2

>> Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My second go at making + using sourdough starter is almost complete. I'm at the stage now where I need to feed my mix for a few days before using it in baking. This time around, I used the organic grapes method, which is quite different than the store-bought yeast way, which I did it the last time.

Take a look:

That second photo is . . . gross, right?

First of all, I didn't tie my grapes up well enough in their cheesecloth bag, so they escaped, leaving a lump of cheesecloth in their wake. Then I googled for a good half hour to make sure that this stuff is still safe for consumption. After a quick stir, it reached that textbook bubbly pancake batter-like consistency that you see in the last photo. Phew.

I'm thinking I'll go back to the basics and make this No-Knead Loaf as my first experiment with the stuff. From there, though, I'd like to get more creative than the last time around. I'm thinking pancakes, pretzels, tortillas, pie crust, doughnuts, etc. I've read that some people even feed their chickens with sourdough starter!

Again: I'm not an expert at this by any means. So, if you're interested in starting, well, a starter of your own, certainly check out this recipe -- along with all these tips and tricks -- to get you going in the right direction.

Do you bake with sourdough starter? 

What's your favorite recipe? And how long have your kept your mother alive?

This woman has been maintaining one that's over 120 years old!


The Sourdough Experiment
Day 2 + Feeding the Beast
Stage 2: Baking Prep
Sneak Peek at the Results
No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe

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5-Minute Homemade Deodorant + Review

>> Monday, August 11, 2014

Over the last several years, I've tried a number of natural deodorants from rolls to sticks to powders and beyond. I decided to go the natural route when I was nursing Ada. Something about having her so close to all the chemicals and scents didn't sit well with me. And after doing a little research, I decided that I didn't want to rub that stuff into my skin anymore either.

I've had OK-ish results with the products I've tried, though some of the sticks actually burned my armpits. No joke. A rash with peeling and burning, which I would have never expected from a natural product. Of all of them, I've had the best success with Lush's powders, including The Greench and The Guv'ner.

I ran out of powder recently + thought: What about making my own? Well, the following "recipe" takes less than 5 minutes to make + uses ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. It also works pretty well, just see my review below!

The essential oils keep your pits smelling fresh + feeling cool.

You need . . . 
Instructions . . .
  1. Combine the arrowroot powder and baking soda in a small bowl. If your skin is especially sensitive, consider using only 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot powder and baking soda.
  2. Pour in the melted coconut oil and mix until well combined + no lumps.
  3. Drop in your essential oils and keep stirring. Then pour into a glass container and store in your refrigerator.
  4. To use: Remove from the fridge and break away a little piece. Rub into your armpit and return container to the fridge.


The recipe above is similar to most all the natural deodorant recipes you will find on the web. The only downfall in my opinion is that you need to keep it in the fridge so it stays firm. I did come across this variation using beeswax that is basically the same, but is stabilized and can stand on your shelf without melting. It's not THAT big a deal to me, and keeping it in the fridge increases its cooling effect.

Now, I'm not going to lie. This deodorant doesn't keep your armpits 100% completely fresh all day long on the hottest days of the year. But it DOES work as well -- if not better -- than the natural products I've bought at the store. No joke -- and especially better than the stick brands I've purchased, as it doesn't irritate my armpits (no burns) and costs way, way less.

I recommend applying it 3 to 4 times a day for the best results. The asterisk next to arrowroot powder above means you can also use cornstarch if you wish. I've read that some people experience yeast infections using cornstarch while others do not -- just be aware of that possibility. My choice to use peppermint extract is my favorite part of the whole thing because it feels -- well -- fantastic.

After a couple weeks of using this deodorant, my armpits are soft, I haven't had any bad skin reactions, and I have a ton of the jar still left over. So, I'd estimate the cost of maybe 2 to 3 months of deodorant at $1 (if that much)! So, it's at least worth a try, especially considering you may have most of these ingredients on hand.

Have you tried natural deodorant -- whether homemade or store-bought? What's your experience? Or what's your favorite recipe? And don't forget to check out all the ways we use castile soap for our home + body cleaning!

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Grilled Blueberry + Brie Sandwich

>> Friday, August 8, 2014

Moving on . . . If I could ever open a restaurant, I'd definitely try my hand at a sandwich shop. Nothing fills my stomach better than crusty bread with lots of fillings, sauces, and cheeses. Remember the ultimate vegetarian behemoth, The Lover? Of course you do! Who can forget?

And if you're looking for a way to use that homemade Honey Whole Wheat + Flax Loaf, I've got you covered. With all those freshly picked blueberries hanging around and a forgotten wheel of Aldi brie, I melted together pure perfection. This sandwich is delicious for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. OK. Dinner and dessert, too.

Here's how you do it:

Makes 4 sandwiches total, but you can always cut ingredients down to make one!

What you'll need . . . 
  • 8 slices of Honey Whole Wheat + Flax Bread (or other bread)
  • 1 wheel of brie, I sliced the rind off mine
  • 1/2 cup of 10-Minute Chia Blueberry Jam, recipe below
  • Earth Balance or butter 
  • Honey, for drizzling (optional)

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Splash lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pot. Heat on medium until blueberries plump. Then squash them down with a spatula, lower heat, and keep stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before using in the sandwich (or storing in the fridge). You will have extra jam to spread on toast or baked muffins.

Putting the sandwich together . . .
  1. Warm a grill pan* (or a regular pan can do in a pinch) on the stove over medium-high heat while you prepare the ingredients. Lower heat just before starting to grill to avoid burning. It's a lot like making grilled cheese, if that helps.
  2. Spread one side of bread slices with Earth Balance or butter. Then flip over and spread one side with jam and arrange sliced brie on other side. Sandwich together and place one on the griddle.
  3. You'll want to press down ever-so slightly to get those grill marks going. After a few minutes of cooking, arrange the sandwich in another direction to get the cross grill marks. Then flip and repeat on the other side. The brie should start to ooze -- that's when you know it's done!
  4. I like serving this sandwich with the jam side on the bottom and the brie on the top. It hits my palate better that way. But -- either way -- you can also choose to drizzle with a little honey for extra indulgence.
* I have a Le Creuset Grill Pan that I had won in a contest like 7 years ago or something like that. It's wonderful -- even for vegetarians -- with making sandwiches or grilling tofu with those characteristic marks. You can also find one for less $$$ made by Lodge for just under $20. And it's pre-seasoned!

Behold . . .

The best thing about this sandwich is that you can make it with whatever berries are seasonal. I've made quick chia jams using the exact method above with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. So, please make this sandwich SOON and let me know how you like it. It's a new favorite around these parts. So simple to make, yet so . . . I don't know . . . fancy.

Happy Friday!

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