Rye, sesame & spelt crackers

After eating these, you will be spoiled for any other cracker, I promise. I feel that good about these. They are sturdy, homey, incredibly crunchy & tasty. They love all forms of dips and cheeses.

They take a little bit of time due to the sourdough starter, but other than that, are very, very EASY. This post is super text heavy, not out of complication, but rather my love of over-sharing details to make them as easy as possible...hopefully.

The recipe yield is large because it's best to make them in big batches. They store well too, if no one eats them all first :)

Basically, the only tricky bit is the sourdough starter. It takes time for the fermenting to do it's thing, (1-2 weeks), but once you have it, it's smooth sailing and the sourdough flavour is worth it.

Here we go...

To make rye sourdough starter:

1. Start with rye flour, water (see note about water) and a container with a lid. I use a fido jar but any glass jar with a lid is fine. Make sure it's clean, but with no residue of soap as that can kill your starter before you get going!
2. Measure about 1/4 cup of rye flour and 1/4 cup of water in your starter jar. Stir it up and put the lid on.
3. After 24 hours, add a 1-2 tablespoons of rye flour and about the same quantity of water (doesn't have to be exact by any means). Stir it up well and put the lid back on.
4. Continue this process every 24 hours. You should start to see bubbling forming. The surface of the starter should have a good amount of action.
5. It might take a couple days for the bubbling to start, so don't give up right away. Give it another couple days of feeding. But if there is nothing happening, then the starter isn't starting. Something is wrong....might be one of many things, but you'll have to toss it and start again.

Notes about starter
  • Remember to feed it every 24 hours. You can get away with forgetting a little bit. For example, if you skip a day, feed it again as soon as you think of it. 
  • The consistency should be a little runny and paste-like. 
  • *WATER. I have had better luck with left-out water aka counter water (because I leave it on the counter). Maybe chemicals are evaporating while it sits on the counter that would otherwise kill the starter? I don't use any water that hasn't sat out for a least 12 hours.  
  • see what the 'bubbling' action looks like.
  • Feed the starter for at least 7 days before it is ready to use. But longer is fine too. 
  • I usually make the amount I want to use. For example, I'll keep feeding my starter until I have about 3 cups worth, then use it all up. Some people keep starter going all the time, but I can't be bothered. 
CRACKER RECIPE
Yield: 60-70 crackers

Ingredients
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (optional, but adds flavour and they look nice too-but don't skip the toasting)
3 cups rye starter (that you made in advance)
3 cups spelt flour
1/2-2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Toast sesame seeds for 5-7 minutes at 325°. Allow to cool slightly before using.
2. In a large bowl, mix starter, flour, salt, apple cider vinegar and olive oil.
3. Mix well in the bowl. Once dough is together, add sesame seeds and work in until they are stuck in the dough.
4. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Kneed for about 5 minutes, working the sesame seeds through the dough.
5. Divide dough in half. Dust one half with flour and cover with a tea towel. It is easier to work with half the dough at the time.
6. Roll out the dough ensuring the counter surface and dough are kept lightly floured to prevent sticking. Roll out to a little thinner than 1/8th inch thickness.
7. I use a pizza cutter to cut out the crackers into squares. Whatever shape you prefer is totally fine. Place them on a parchment lined or silicone lined baking tray.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350°. If you put 2 trays in the oven, switch the trays around halfway through. When the baking time is done, turn the oven off & allow the crackers to remain in the warm oven to keep crisping for an additional 10 minutes or so with the oven door propped open slightly to allow the steam to escape.

Their crispiness depends a lot on how thick the crackers are and how long they are baked. If they are too thick, they will over brown before they get super crispy and be extremely firm (somewhat bulletproof). Thinner is better, but no too thin that they will break easily.
It gets easier and faster if you make them a few times. They keep for several weeks. Store in bag (paper bag works best or a plastic one not fully sealed) or in the freezer for longer storage.

They smell really amazing out of the over and you'll try but not be able to resist eating a bunch with butter. Enjoy!!



diy spirulina face mask

Giant green face!!
Yes, it's been a long time. I thought I might be at the end of post ideas...but then, found this one I started a few months ago...and face masks came up the other day, so voila!  A post about clay masks.

I boost my mask concoctions with carrier oils and use every other week to 1x month. It's a semi-luxurious treat that actually makes a difference to my skin and it's a pretty darn cheap way to do it.

Yield: enough for about 2 faces (any leftover, I store it in the fridge and use it up later).

Ingredients
1 tbsp multani mitti* clay (or another clay, see below)
1/4 tsp sweet almond, jojoba, evening primrose or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp spirulina powder

Boosters (use at least 2, but feel free to use more)
1/2 tsp liquid honey
1/4 tsp glycerin
1/2 tsp aloe vera gel
1/4 tsp silk peptides
2-3 drops lavender essential oil

Instructions
Measure ingredients into a bowl you don't care about (the clay can scratch as you mix).
Add enough water to make a smooth, but thick paste
Apply to face in a medium thick coating. Leave on for 20 minutes
Gently remove with warm water and a wet facecloth
Finish by moisturizing skin with a few drops of argan or rosehip oil.

FIY Common clays & information
*Multani mitti clay has hydrating properties, is good for treating blackheads and whiteheads and scaring. Helps to remove dead skin cells. It promotes circulation to get skin glowing.
*French green clay: absorbs and removes impurities from skin, helps skin feel toned and refreshed
*Rhassoul clay-good for reducing dryness and flakiness, improves skin clarity and elasticity
*Australian green clay-strong clay, good for detoxifying, can aid in scar repair, good for oily skin

Natural deodorant (that totally works)

My simple 3-ingredient lemongrass coconut deodorant recipe I posted last summer is still going strong. Using it is a pleasure. A little goes a long way, it last for months and still keeps doing it's odour-free magic. It's insanely economical and totally natural. But, I get bored using the same thing all the time....so time for a remix.

Natural deodorants are popping up everywhere; specifically 'cream' styles. I like to use a stick style, but I'm open to options and I keep my eye on them. Routine Cream (made in Canada in beautiful little jars)...and Black Chicken 'Axilla' from Australia. I haven't tried any, but they totally inspire me to to diy them (especially after seeing their super simple ingredients list).

After after 4 versions, I got one I liked....a lot. Here's how it went down.

Version 1: Very greasy. Not good.

Version 2: Too dry. Attempting to compensate for version #1, the cream just crumpled out of my pits and onto the floor.

Version 3: Better.....

Version 4: Best. Nice texture, goes on easily while still having enough of the dry ingredients to do their thing.

Natural deodorant cream recipe

Yield: 100 grams
p.s. please get a scale if you don't have one....they are inexpensive and you'll use it constantly if you diy these kinds of things

Ingredients

Oily stuff
15 grams coconut oil
4 grams beeswax
3 grams shea butter
3 grams cocoa butter
5 grams sweet almond oil (or can use grapeseed, olive or jojoba)

Dry stuff
35 grams baking soda
15 grams arrowroot powder
10 grams corn starch
10 grams kaolin clay

  • 0-10 drops essential oil (depending on your smell preference. Avoid peppermint and other strong/irritating oils as they can sting. Vetiver is nice. For me, lemongrass or lime and vanilla.
  • 2 drops grapefruit seed extract (optional-but has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties).

Instructions

1. gently heat (just enough to liquify) oily ingredients in a saucepan.
2. measure dry ingredients in another bowl.
3. add gently heated oils to dry ingredients.
3. mix.
4. add optional essential oils and optional grapefruit seed extract.
5. store in a small container with a lid.
6. to use, scoop out a pea-size amount with your finger and massage into skin.
Enjoy it very much. 

Update: I've noticed this gets a little 'firm' in the winter months (more like rock solid) if you live somewhere chilly, like me. If you anticipate this, instead of a little pot, try putting this into a stick deodorant container (I reuse an old one) or try adding a little more almond oil when you first make it and it will stay softer even in the cold...but not too much or it will be greasy.   

Glycerin-free vitamin C serum

Sorry for the infrequent posts everyone. I've been busy with home renos, gardening and a new job. But I've been working on a ton of personal care diy that I want to share over the coming months. I've researched, tried, modified and used as much homemade products as I handle (I even got Craig to try some too). My standards are strict. I want something that benefits my skin. I want it easy to make and be made with natural ingredients.

Today, Vitamin C serum. (tomorrow the world!)

One of the products I'm using every day...and seeing results from using (it's been 6 weeks) is topical vitamin C. In the past, I purchased one from Paula's Choice Skincare which was quite nice but quite expensive at $48 for 0.67oz! But it got me hooked on the power of vitamin C.
To specifically target signs of aging on your face, topical vitamin C is best. In fact, applying vitamin C to the skin can be 20 times more effective than taking it orally. 

Glycerin-free because most diy recipes you'll find have it. I made my first batch with it and was super annoyed. Glycerin is fine and moisturizing, but it sits on top of the skin and stays sticky! It just never absorbs. Plain water & C is an option, but it's a little boring and hard to apply, being watery.

The best way I've found to make it is using aloe vera gel. I got the idea is from Gorgeously Green.

Tips
  • for best results the concentration of Vitamin C should be around 10-20%
  • a tiny bit of stinging is normal
  • make a fresh batch once a week: after mixing with water, the vitamin C will oxidize over time and not be effective
  • store in a dropper bottle or small spray bottle for ease of application
  • store away from heat and light-best in the fridge if it's convenient or a dark drawer in the bathroom
  • Maximum results achieved after 6 months of use, keep using to maintain results

Yield: enough for 1 face/neck area for 1 week

Ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin C powder (I bought at a health food store: it should be a powder and have no added ingredients-just straight vitamin C)
  • 2 tsp water (used distilled if you have it, room temperature boiled water seems to do the trick-that's what I use)
  • 3 tsp aloe vera gel (look for a good quality one without colours and additives)

Instructions

Dissolve the vitamin C powder in the water. Mix it well, some dissolve faster than others. There should not be any white bits floating around. But if you've mixed for a while and it's still a little granular, that's ok. Add the aloe vera gel and mix again. Pour it into your bottle, ideally a glass bottle with a dropper (I've reused a cosmetic one and lately, one that held stevia drops). If there are any un-dissoved bits of C, they'll dissolve as the mix sits. Just be sure to shake well before using.

This recipe makes a concentration of 10% Vit C.  I started off a little too strong thinking 'go big or go home'. But my skin needed time to adjust (it tingled/itched like crazy). So, I lowered the Vit C. I use 10%. I know pH is important, but I haven't checked mine. It seems to do something to my skin though. Results I've noticed after 6 weeks of use: fresher looking, smoother skin, less flakiness.

Natural dyed eggs

Recently, I was inspired when I saw this post on the kitchn (How to make vibrant, naturally dyed Easter Eggs). The directions were easy enough to follow, but haha, not that easy, because it was only much later, I realized I forgot the vinegar. I think it would have made the colours more vibrant. But alas, my eggs are still pretty. Pale and pretty....festive for Easter. I was debating not to include that link, because you might think mine are looking good, but if you see the ones at the Kitchn, wow, That's some colour on their eggs!

But it was a fun project and awesome to have boiled eggs snacks for days & days (I love boiled eggs). They keep for about a week in the fridge.

I tried purple cabbage, red onion skins and turmeric as my natural colourants of choice.  I kept my eggs in their dyes overnight in the fridge.
The purple cabbage gave me the results I loved the most.
Not too much difference here for the brown. I wonder if this is where the vinegar would have helped?
Pale but pretty yellow. A very Easter colour I'd say.
Egg close up.

Have a lovely Easter everyone!

gluten-free & sugar-free banana loaf

Banana loaf is seriously one of my favourite treats. I love saving bananas in the freezer just to make this now and then. Of course, it's me, and I experiment with ways to make the most healthy version possible that is still edible. Haha, of course, MORE than JUST edible, but I've made some interesting concoctions over the years that were pretty borderline.

Last year, I made a grain-free loaf, here, and though I love that one, it's dense and gets a little mushy if you don't eat it within a day. I wanted a more fluffy & flour-like version. So, looking through the mason jars and feeling inspiration, I combined a mix of flours that together, impart a light fluffiness and taste wonderful (there is chickpea flour in there but you can't taste it once cooked).

All in all, delicious.....but, just to avoid disappointment, if you are going from a Starbucks banana bread to this one, you will notice the missing sugar! Big time. If you limit your sugar and sweet treats, this will taste plenty sweet and actually quite substantial with all the protein. A nice thick slice for breakfast would be great. And you won't feel like you just ate a piece of cake, which is what most banana breads actually are....
Ok, so technically, this loaf is not sugar free. But it sounded way better in the title than, 'nearly sugar-free except for the very dark chocolate and bananas'.

Give it a try! I think you'll be surprised how good it is. It might even freeze well, though it never lasts long enough for me to find out.

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 super ripe medium sized bananas
3 free-range or better eggs
1/4 cup organic homogenized milk
1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup gluten-free oats ground into fine flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup unflavoured protein powder (I use Natural Factors whey)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (optional)
1/2 tsp good quality salt

60 grams chopped 85% or higher chocolate (I used a 90% Lindt bar)

Instructions

1. Grease or parchment line a loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in another bowl (except chocolate) and mix well.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Mix well, then add chopped chocolate and mix to incorporate.
5. Pour batter into the loaf pan.
6. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Loaf should not 'jiggle' when you move it. **I bake this in the top of my gemini oven and I tent lightly with foil near the end of the baking time to prevent over browning.
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Allow 30 minutes before cutting.

DIY cold-process soap

You may wonder, why make soap? I certainly only go through a bar or 2 a year and there are plenty of soap options to buy...but what it comes down to for me is that I love the control over the ingredients & it's super fun. The moment when your soap is ready to cut is a sweet moment. It's also like a science experiment, trying different add-ins and not really knowing how a colour or pattern will turn out. Fun! (and sometimes argh!!).
most recent batch, cinnamon swirl soap 
After doing my research, I decided to make soaps as natural as possible. I've been colouring with various clays and things from the kitchen cupboard (used spirulina powder, turmeric and cinnamon with success). I'll never get the amazing vibrant colours, but I like knowing that it's natural.  Same with fragrances, I'm using only essential oils. A lot are needed to scent a batch with any strength or lasting power, so I've been using stronger, cheaper ones for now (like peppermint and lemongrass).
my supply closet in the art room: check out my new soap mould on the floor!
The soap I make is by cold-process. It involves using lye, but as long as you are careful, it's not bad. It's to be taken seriously, for sure and I wear safety glasses during the key portions.

I'm not going to go into details about the process because others have been there and done it beautifully.

The Soapmakers' Companion by Sue Miller is great and I've used her basic soap recipe with success.

the Crafty Gemini is very pleasant to watch
She goes through the whole process in a nice little video and covers the equipment and the safety stuff.

Kathy Miller : old school soap guru (just noticed 2 'soap people' with last name Miller...interesting)
Many good tips, troubleshooting, questions and lots more.

Calgary girl, Humblebee & Me, whose soap mould inspired me to build my own (by Craig, thank you)

Soap calculator, when you are ready to whip up your own concoctions. 
This calculates the amount of lye you need depending on the kinds and percentages of fats and oils.

I get my supplies from New Directions Aromatics.
The shipping is very reasonable. Even with heavy buckets of soap making oils!
Christmas soap packaging options I tried this year
If you've always wanted to try it, go for it (or befriend someone who makes soap. I've only been making soap for 6 months, but I've got enough to last me and my extended family for years & possibly lifetimes). Happily, with my new soap mould, I'm now able to make much smaller batches. This is great to try out just a couple bars at a time.
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