Monday, October 28, 2013

Green Laundry Solutions: Soap Nuts Review

Have you ever tried washing your clothing with Soap Nuts?  Maybe I should ask, have you ever even heard of soap nuts?  I had not heard of these little nuts, well actually they are berries but I'll get to that in a bit. I learned about soap nuts when I received a handful in my last Homegrown Collective subscription box.  I should have done a full review of this box as it was really amazing.  I learned so much about eco-friendly, non-toxic ways to do my laundry.  It was really eye-opening and I've actually been excited for laundry day to roll around so I can use all my new products!  
I've used the soap nuts for four loads of laundry now and I am really liking the results.  My clothes are coming out of the laundry fresh and clean.  It's pretty amazing!
So, what is a soap nut?  They are the dried shells of berries which are grown on trees found in the Himalaya's.  Yes they are grown on trees, so you this is definitely a natural, organic alternative to laundry soap.  You can't get much more natural then that I would think!   The reason they effectively clean your clothes is they have a substance saponin in them which is the "soap."  The detergent action of the saponin comes to play when warm/hot water and agitation stimulates its release.  Saponin acts a surfactant which is what helps break down oils and frees the dirt and grime from your laundry.  It is just like what all those synthetic chemicals do to clean your clothes.  Saponin won't foam up as much as what we are all used to from our synthetic soaps.  Just because it doesn't give you that "normal" amount of bubbling action, doesn't mean it won't clean.  This is important to remember and ingrain in your head.  This will actually help clean your clothes better as you won't get any leftover soap/chemical residue in your clothing.  They are going to be squeaky clean and chemical free. Woo hoo!! 
Soap nuts are safe for use in HE washing machines.  What you'll do is place 3-4 soap nuts in a small canvas drawstring bag and tie it tightly.  Don't worry if the bag does happen to open during the wash cycle, it only means you'll have to hunt through your clothing to find the loose nuts.  Toss the tied bag directly into the wash basin.  You can leave them in the entire time, even during the rinse cycle. Now, if you wash your clothes with cold water, you will want to first place the bag of soap nuts, using 6 nuts, in a small jar and add HOT water.  Seal the jar tightly and shake it up and down really good, until you see some good froth.  Dump the water with the bag of soap nuts into your wash basin, along with your clothes, and wash as normal.
It's almost seems too simple to be real, but it is and I love it!  If you'd like to try soap nuts yourself, you can find many different options to try here.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

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Last year, I made a pretty simple change to my diet.  I began drinking smoothies twice a day.  I have to tell you this is one easy way to add fruits and veggies into your diet on a daily basis, and your body will love you for it.  I feel a noticeable difference in my overall health!   

With Fall quickly approaching, this gives me the perfect opportunity to share one of my favorite smoothie recipes, a Pumpkin Smoothie.  I don't know about you but there is just something about the cool, crispness of the Fall air that starts my taste buds craving pumpkin.

1/3 can, canned pumpkin (15oz) or 5 oz homemade puree
1 Tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ginger
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I recommend homemade)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 frozen banana

Add all the ingredients into a high powered blender.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy! (makes 2 servings)

*Note:  Be sure to tweak this recipe to your own taste buds.  Add more of less of the spices or sweetener and be sure to experiment with additional spices. I think adding some nutmeg would be fantastic, too!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Fall for me means sweaters, skinny jeans with a cute pair of boots, hoodies, Husker football games, spiced apple cider, falling leaves,  Halloween, and pumpkins.  By pumpkins, I'm talking pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies (recipe will be coming soon on a future post), pumpkin bars, pumpkin whoopee pies, pumpkin muffins...oh my, I'm starting to drool a bit.  In order to make all these divinely scrumptious baked goods you'll need to stock up on lots of pumpkin puree.  Normally, I would use Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin Puree, but this year, after seeing some organic pumpkins in the produce section at Natural Grocers, I decided it was about time to try making my own.  

Homemade Pumpkin Puree:
**I want to credit Organic Authority for the instructions which helped me learn how to make this puree.

1 whole Pumpkin (I used a 4 LB Sugar Pumpkin)

1.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

2.  De-stem and cut the pumpkin in half.  Remove the seeds but don't throw them away.  Roast those babies for some good snacking later on!

3.   Place the two halves face up on a baking sheet.  Place in the oven for 45 - 60 minutes, or until a fork can pierce the flesh.  Let me tell you....Your house will smell all sorts of amazing as this pumpkin is in the oven roasting.  Mmmmm!

4.  Allow the pumpkin to cool off a bit before scraping all the flesh off the skin.  Discard the skin.  Place the pumpkin in a blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Note: A food processor may work better then a blender on this step.  I struggled a bit with my blender blending the pumpkin very well. I had to keep stopping and stirring it around a bit.  It may be the kind of blender I have, but I'm going to try a food processor next time to see if it makes this step any easier.  ***UPDATE**** Use a food processor for this step.  It works like a charm!!!!

5.  Drain off any excess water, if needed.  (I did not need to do this step but if your pumpkin holds a lot of moisture in it, you might have to.)

6.  Store in jars or freeze for later use.  I was able to get about 38oz of pumpkin puree from a 4LB pumpkin.