Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Now this is not something that I eat, however, it is something that I put on my body. Why should we be careful about what we put on our bodies? The skin is an organ, and our bodies absorbs a lot of stuff through the skin. Whatever gets absorbs enters our bodies and the bloodstream. That is why poultices work, or a nicotine patch. To give herbs to babies, it is often applied to the bottom of their feet. The baby won't eat the herb, but their body can benefit still from the herbs through the absorption of the skin.

That being said there are many, many things that you will want to avoid, and the more you read your labels, the more that you will find that these substances are everywhere.
This is just a very brief list;
-Propylene Glycol (also known as anti-freeze, yes, for cars, also found in dressings and some ice creams)
-Parabens (anything ending with Paraben, major estrogen effect on the system, cancer causing)
-Fragrances (artificial - actually desensitizes your nerves and affects the nervous system, often of known cancer causing substances)
-Dyes (read: chemicals)

Then there are things like alcohol that are not necessarily bad, but are drying for your skin. So, in the luxury of Winnipeg (never thought I'd say that), where there are plenty of Health Food stores with various selections of soaps, my soap of choice was Castile soaps. Made with soaponified olive oil, some with added tea tree or honey, I was confident in getting a good soap that would disrupt the hormones or damage the nerves in my body. However, I was not sure of what to do here.

I was overjoyed when I found that the community makes their own good, old fashioned, homemade soap. With good old beef tallow and lye (lye is corrosive on it's own, but in soap it is fine). This is what I have been using to wash my laundry. And the people here have found that it works sooooo much better than the store bought stuff. Apparently a couple of the washing machines where brown inside and they couldn't get them clean. But in a couple of months of using this soap for laundry, the insides of the machines are sparkling white again. Laundry soap is another thing thing to be careful about. The soap often wears out your clothes with all the additives and fillers added to it. And the chemicals from the soap will be left on your clothes when you were them, again absorbing into your skin. (I don't have time right now to get into fabric softeners and dryer sheets, read: poison! Maybe I'll do a post on those things alone some other time.)

So, there is this homemade soap stuff. It doesn't smell the best, it doesn't smell the worst though either. Joey really doesn't like the smell though. However, our clothes don't have any smell left of them whatsoever (the line drying outside may help that too). So, I really don't know what I'm doing. I went and scooped up the small bits of the soap from container in the laundry room (thinking those would melt better), and I did get a couple bigger chunks as well. (In the laundry room, there is an old electric pot with the soap melted in some water ready for regular use, we just scoop it with a ladle and add it to the washing machine.)

I wanted to do something to the smell and it would have been nice if I had some cocoa butter, coconut oil, or Shea butter to make it more moisturizing, but the tallow will probably take care of that. Also if I had some essential oils that would make the soap smell a lot better. But, not having any of these ingredients I had to be creative.

I melted the soap in a little bit of water (I didn't want to make it too soft of a soap) in a pot on the stove. Then I added some honey. However, it doesn't have a really strong honey smell. So in goes some cinnamon. I also ground up some oatmeal and added some to the soap as well.

The soap still has the lingering soap smell, I would probably need some essential oil to cover that up, but it's not as strong as it was plain. The honey and oats are said to be good for the skin.

I poured the soap into a plastic container that I figured would be easy to pop the soap out of once it set. Some of the chuncks of soap never did melt, but I didn't really care, I don't really know what I'm doing anyway. I added some oatmeal on top for fun and placed it in the fridge for the night.

A couple days later I took the soap out of the fridge. It popped out of the container pretty easily. I then cut it into six pieces, it cut pretty easily. I placed it back into the mold, covered it and put it back into the fridge until I needed to use some.

It appears to be a winner. Joey mentioned that he really liked it and I find that it is not drying at all. The honey smell also seemed to get more noticeable when we used the soap.

Spelt Pita

Spelt is one of the flours that I use. Though it is technically not gluten free, many gluten sensitive people can enjoy it. Spelt is especially good for sourdough breads and if I can ever find the berries here I will attempt some sprouted spelt sourdough. But for now the spelt sourdough bread that I have really come to enjoy is the Integrity Bread, found in Manitoban Health food stores.

Like all grains, Spelt (in whole berry form) should really be soaked and sprouted to break down the phytic acid (which is found naturally in grains, but binds to important nutrients that you're body will want) and to make the grain more easy to digest, or fermented. However, I do use store-bought spelt flour in this recipe (and for others).

The Pita

1 cup Spelt flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water (room temp)
1/2 - 1 tsp olive oil (if necessary)

In a bowl mix flour and salt. Make a little well in the middle of the flour. Add water and oil (I usually just put the oil in). Mix with fork until mixture forms a ball. Divide into (4) balls. Flatten on floured surface. Roll out, keeping well floured.

Place on a hot (stainless steal) skillet (do not add oil or anything to the skillet). Bake about 3 minutes on each side.

If you want a thinner pita you can try to divide the dough into 5 balls, although, the thinner it gets the harder it is to lift and place on the skillet. You may be able to see in the pictures that some of the dough folded on itself in some of the pitas.

These pitas are great covered in butter and crushed garlic, toasted in the oven and served with hummus.

Or also for pizza!...

For pizza, I saute some onion and when the onion is almost soft I add some chopped garlic.
While the onion is cooking, I drizzle olive oil on the pitas. Give them a generous amount. I used to use store-bought rice wraps for this, and they didn't need very much oil because they were so thin, but these are thicker and can use more oil. Sprinkle spices of choice onto the oiled pita. I use oregano, basil and Herbamare. I load the softened onions on top of this, and then add chopped tomatoes and chicken if I have. Feta cheese would also go deliciously on this, and when I feel like a good cheat I add some. Add whatever ingredients you like - peppers, olives, whatever. I usually keep these pretty simple, but they can easily get fancy.

I place them in the oven at about 350 and I hardly time things, I just check every so often to see if they are crispy enough, of if the toppings are cooked to my liking, you probably don't need to bake these at all if you don't want to. Here, in Tasmania, I am still getting used to these different stoves. They have the oven part in the bottom, with only a bottom heat source. And then in a separate enclosure is the grill with the top heat source. For this round I just did them in the grill, I'm not sure if that's that best way to do them or not, but it turned out fine.

I added a simple salad to this meal. (I do not have the same ingredients that I had back in Canada, so the salad dressings are more or less made up every time. This time I believe it consisted of olive oil and a dash of apple cider vinegar and some oregano and garlic.) I make the salad more exiting by adding carrot, tomato and on my portion soaked sunflower seeds (Joey is allergic to sunflower seeds).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dried Apples

In the previous post I mentioned that I noticed that the apples did not turn brown when I sprinkled them with charcoal. This intrigued me. I was wanting to make dried apple slices and was a bit unsure of the lemon juice that was available here. It had some preservative in it (in Australia they don't seem to want to make it to readily known just what ingredients are in their products, this was “preservative 223”. I did look it up, but I don't remember which not-so-great preservative it was). Normally when drying apples, after cutting them I dip them into a lemon/water solution to prevent them from turning brown while they dry on my dehydrator (which is also in care of my Mom). I did not really want to use this lemon juice and so I decided to do some experimenting.

I cored and peeled the apples and cut them into slices. I then places the sliced apples in a bowl of water to which some charcoal had been added. I let them soak for a few minutes and then placed them on a cooking tray (stainless steel).

They did look quite speckled, but since charcoal doesn't have or affect taste I didn't really care.

I then sprinkled the apples with cinnamon and placed them in the grill part of my oven. I set the grill as low as it would go. On my dehydrator I was able to adjust the temperature and always dehydrated things below 110 F in order to maintain as many nutrients as I could. I did not have a clue what temperature it got to in my gill, but I keep the door open at times so it would not heat up too much.

When they are dried through to your likeness (longer for “chips” less if you want them more spongy), remove from oven. I've put these in the freezer so we don't eat them all right away. I'll use them for a snack or to add to granola. These are only brown from the cinnamon, otherwise, they have not yellowed very much at all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


We were blessed this past week to have a surplus of apples. Usually apples are on my list of “definitely must have organic”, (we usually bought everything organic) but because of the scarcity of fruit in general here, plus the even bigger scarcity of organic food (we would have to order specially from Hobart), I gladly accept the poisoned apple.

Back in Canada, we preferred to have Granny Smith apples (or sour apples as the kids referred to them as) because they do not have as high a sugar content. We would generously (at least I would) load them with cinnamon and eat with our freshly ground (with my Champion Juicer) raw almond butter. However, I have had to leave my wonderful juicer in care of my Mom, who I'm sure will thoroughly enjoy it. Plus we don't have any almonds currently. Apparently they do get them occasionally here though.

The apples that's we've gotten here have been a various varieties. Golden Delicious, and Fuji among others that I can't remember. They have done alright with the natural peanut butter, but just don't have the flavour of the organic apples. It will be truly wonderful when the apple trees bring forth their fruit here. I am not sure how many apple trees they have, but I know they have at least one more established one, and several smaller ones. Those will be good apples.

The apple is a great fruit. It is also a great sweetener. So I set about to make some applesauce to use later for baking when apples are not so plentiful. I choose the Golden Delicious for the sauce, mainly because I know the other people here preferred the red ones for eating.

I do cringe at the thought of eating apples full of poisonous pesticides, or anything with pesticides for that matter. Apples happen to be at the top of the list for pesticides (along with bell peppers, and peaches). Among a host of other nasty things, pesticides are also mimic estrogen. For someone who has a disease caused by too much estrogen, this is definitely something that I want to avoid. So what to do?

Before leaving Canada, I got a very interesting book from Letitia about Charcoal called Charcoal At the time, my interest was the part of the book that talked about charcoal's ability to absorb poisons from snake and spider bites. (I have never seen so many spiders as I do here, not a fan of spiders in the first place, but here there is the added, “Just assume they are all poisonous to some degree.” Great.) However, reading the book, I am soundly convinced of charcoal's diversity and have been trying it out several different ways – ways not even mentioned in the book (although I'm not totally done reading it yet), but the principle is the same. Charcoal absorbs poison, and I was particularly intrigued by one story of a man who attempted suicide by swallowing a bunch of pesticides. They force fed him a bunch of charcoal water (he was unconscious) and he made it.

And so I took my charcoal to the kitchen. Well actually it stays in there anyway. I've been filtering water using charcoal, but that's another story.

So, when I cut up my apples to make the sauce I simply added a tablespoon of powdered charcoal to the pot. It took eight apples to fill the pot and the one tablespoon sure made them black. I simmered the apples on as low as I could on this stove (it doesn't stay very low). Normally I would just juice the whole apple with the blank screen on my juicer for nice raw applesauce, but alas, I don't have that option anymore.

I let them cook until nice and soft and then mashed them as good as I could, but wasn't terribly picky.
I then packed them into little jar containers, measured by the cup for use in future baking.

I did a second batch and decided that maybe I didn't want such a black applesauce. So instead of adding the charcoal to the pot, I sprinkle the tablespoon of charcoal to the cut apples in a bowl and let them sit for a while.

After sitting for a few hours, I quickly rinsed them.

I still had the scrapings of the first batch of applesauce in the pot, so this second batch is darker than it would've been if I had done them this second method from the start, but that's okay. No one will mistake my applesauce! Can you tell which was the first batch?

During this process I did notice something very interesting. I let the second batch of apples sit for a couple of hours in the charcoal. Normally apples turn yellow/brown after a while. However, these apples remains a nice white (with black specks from the charcoal). That led me to another idea...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


In my opinion cinnamon is the spice of life - everything tastes better with cinnamon. However, one thing we've really been missing lately is Herbamare.

Yesterday Joey and I were able to take the van and go do some exploring in Bernie for Health food. It was kind-of a sad trip in terms of Health food stores - nothing like what we're used to in Canada. There are simply not enough people around these parts for larger availability, it seems like the hub on the island is in Hobart (5 hour drive away). There's a bit to sacrifice for being out in the country. (Thankfully we have the internet and will thus have to order a few things - like Agave Nectar, Coconut oil, etc. and it's surprising how hard it is to find a simple thing like Vanilla without sugar in it! I may just end up getting pods and making extract myself.)

Anyways, the one thing we did manage to find was our long missed Herbamare! Supper tasted a little better last night, and lunch today did too, and popcorn will later...

Don't underestimate this little bottle of herb infused salt, we have really gotten used to having it in a vast number of things. I only use plain sea salt now for baking, everything else gets Herbamare. Eggs, salad dressings, popcorn, rice...Herbamare.