Bath Salts for Water Babies

Hmmm…I feel a bit granny-ish writing this post because it’s all about bath salts and, lets face it, aren’t they the kind of present you dread receiving at Christmas time? In fact, I don’t even know if you can buy them any more! However, there is more to the humble bath salt than meets the eye and it’s definitely up for a retro revival. The reason I’m even humouring an alternative to my usual bubble bath is that the bubbles turn out to be Really Bad for you. I know. Annoying isn’t it. I’ve often wallowed away a pleasant hour or so up to my chin in bubbles but the bubbles are caused by Sodium Laurel Sulfate and the fragrances in the bubble bath are more often than not synthetic chemicals which gets a big thumbs down from me. Knowing that the skin is the largest organ in the body and that is absorbs these chemicals like a sponge I need an alternative.

I love dipping in and out of my many Green Beauty DIY books and playing around making potions but this next recipe is a real delight to make and one of my favourites. Once you have the ingredients you can stir it up in 5 minutes flat. In NZ just go online to Go Native otherwise Amazon is a good source of raw materials.  You can also add whichever essential oils you like but for aching muscles make sure you include Juniper and, together with the mineral salts, you’ll feel the benefits. Fennel is one of my all time favourite oils. It’s really fresh and zesty and energising. However, feel free to add your own favourite scent; ylang ylang, cedarwood, geranium and orange for spice or lavender for relaxation or rose for a real luxurious soak.

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Ingredients
175g Dead Sea salt
175g Epsom salts
150g Fine sea salt
60g Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
60g powdered green clay
25 drops Juniper oil
25 drops Fennel oil
50 drops of any combination of citrus (lemon, grapefruit, orange)

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Simply add all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix to get rid of any lumps.

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Add the oils and stir through then decant into a glass jar of some description.

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Add about 3 Tablespoons to your bath or more if you like. Most of the mix will dissolve but you will get a bit of green mineral salt lurking around. This may well put you in mind of sitting in a swamp but Go with It and remember the minerals are seeping into your muscles and giving them a lovely massage as you soak! Bliss!

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Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies

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Ah the controversial beetroot. Set to fill some with dread and loathing and others with happy anticipation. I love the little purple root and take great delight in planting out the seeds and watching the edible leaves pop up followed closely by a swollen pink orb. If you, however are a secret (or indeed vocal) beetroot hater I think I might be able to change your minds with the following recipe. I’ve categorised this post under 5 A Day. Yes, I know I’m being a bit naughty with my 5 a day posts seeing as they both contain chocolate BUT bear with me….it’s worth it!

This recipe comes for the ever lovable Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstall and it’s a delight. I took it round to a gorgeous Foodie Friend of mine and coupled it with my homemade Plum Sorbet. It was a winner so here it is. Go and make it and delight a Foodie friend or Beetroot Hater. They’ll love you for it!

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250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
150g self raising flour (plain or wholemeal)
250g beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and grated

I know what you’re thinking…. Boiling, peeling and grating beetroot sounds like a pain. It is but I prepared the beetroot the day before and stashed in the fridge and it was a mere wink and a blip in my day rather than an arduous chore. So, melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (or melt in the oven if you would rather make use of the oven heat). Whisk the eggs and sugar together then beat in the melted chocolate mixture. Once combined stir in the flour with a big, metal spoon and lastly the beautiful, red beetroot. Stir it in gently otherwise the brownies will be as tough as old boots.

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Pour the mixture into a lined, shallow pan 20 x 25cm or thereabouts and bake for 20-25 mins. A word about timing…..keep an eye on your baking. You don’t want to overcook your brownie as you want the middle to be fudgy. I also cover my brownie (and all my baking) with baking parchment to stop the top from burning.

Once cooked, cool and cut into slices. serve hot or cold with cream, ice cream, plum sorbet or whatever you fancy.

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The light was fading when I took this photo but you’re lucky you got a photo at all! I only remembered when I’d finished mine! Luckily Littlest Fig was still playing with his friend so his was untouched (albeit a bit melty!). A good pud and a bit of vegetably goodness thrown in!

Start Your Own Green Revolution

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For those of you who read my blog you’ll know by now that I try to be as green as I can. There are many out there who are far greener than me but I like to think that, when I can, I make my choices and actions as green as possible. I like the simplicity of some of my green ways like recycling and upcycling and I love the health benefits of others like growing my own chemical free veg and fruit and ditching the chemicals by making very simple cleaning products and cosmetics. When I started to question why I did certain things/bought certain things and looked for alternatives I’ve been surprised at the many benefits that I have enjoyed. I’m always on the look out for other small changes to make my life, and that of my family, greener and healthier.

I was therefore thrilled to hear about this new 12 week challenge initiated by Janet Luke of Green Urban Living starting this Autumn 1st March. It’s completely free to enter and it’s all about challenging ourselves to make a positive green difference to our lives and the environment. By sharing these ideas on Green Urban Living’s FB page we can connect with the whole of New Zealand and, quite possibly, The World!  There are some great prizes up for grabs each week and a starry cast of Green Judges to pick the winners including Te Radar, Tony Murrell, Lynda Hallinan, Malcolm Rands, Annah Stretton, Nz Eco Chick and Wendyl Nissen.

I love the simplicity of this challenge; you can choose what changes you want to make for your own personal Green Revolution and these changes can be as big or small as you want to make them. Here are the weeks that I’m really looking forward to and some that are going to challenge me Quite A Bit.

Week 1 – Ditch the Chemicals

Labelled Adding Soap

This is a subject very close to my heart (and more specifically my arm pits!). I’ve ditched the chemicals in my house by substituting homemade cleaners, peppermint bathroom cleaner, homemade laundry powder, deodorant and moisturiser to name a few. I’m still on the lookout for a good DIY shampoo so I’m hoping to find inspiration for that in week 1.

Week 2 – Shop Local

Seedlings Stone

I wrote a post about this very topic just before Christmas. I have been so inspired by the local businesses here in Hawke’s Bay and I love nothing better than to shop at the local vege shops, markets and small businesses that make for a colourful and unique community. The challenge here is to cook a meal from Local Ingredients. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just local.

Week 3 – Foraging

Plums

Who said there’s no such thing as a Free Lunch? I’m really hoping to learn where to go foraging in my local area. The whole concept of eating Free Bounty is quite a challenge for me. I am after all essentially a Menu Planner and List Writer. Foraging adds a bit of mystery and surprise to the whole operation of eating. Depending on the time of year you could end up making blackberry jam or elderflower cordial. Embrace the element of the unknown!

Week 6 – Grow Something

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I grow a lot of veges. I’ve been moved to post as many zucchini recipes as I can to cope with the glut in my garden. However, I also grow other types of plants for medicinal reasons and for teas and I also grow flowers for picking and some are edible too. The sunflower pictured above contains edible seeds that I’m going to toast with spices for a tasty snack. For those who don’t grow their own then it’s a chance to experience the tiny bit of magic that happens when you plant a seed and water it and watch it grow. For those who do grow veges, why not try growing some culinary herbs like lemongrass or cinnamon basil for an exotic twist to dinner or chamomile and lemon balm to make into tea. Once you get the growing bug you’ll never look back!

Week 7 – Reduce Waste

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On a good week you can hear me gloat to Mr Fig that our Wheelie bin isn’t even close to being full. We’ve managed to reduce our waste significantly with little effort by recycling the usual plastic, glass, paper/cardboard and by composting and feeding scraps to the chickens (and the chocolate lab). However, I’ve since been learning that the Next Step on the recycling ladder is to think about recycling before you even buy….. That means buying store cupboard items in bulk from places like Bin Inn. You can take your own recycled bags/containers to re use so You don’t Even Bring Waste Into Your House. It’s so clever and so obvious but it does require some forethought and you need to Train Yourself to remember the bags and containers. This is how I’ll challenge myself for this week.

Week 12 – Cook Leftovers

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I think some people are born Leftover Eaters. Mr Fig is quite happy to eat last night’s dinner for breakfast or yesterday’s lunch for dinner. I find it Confusing and A Little Bewildering. I also tend to cook Just Enough for us with a tiny portion left over so these tiny portions tend to be left in the fridge and get pushed further to the back until they grow legs and hop in the dishwasher themselves. I did make the cakes pictured above with leftover mincemeat but I know there is more to leftovers than that and so will be challenging myself this week and learning lots.

The other weeks of the challenge include Carless Days, Clothing Swap, Eco Alternative, Recycle, Reuse It and Spread some Seeds. So Give It a Go! You might even win a prize! Start your own personal green revolution; the little changes add up to a big change that can only be a Good Thing. Hop onto Green Urban Living to get the poster and instructions delivered to your inbox for your very own challenge or find out more on Green Urban Living’s FB page. Have Fun and Good Luck!

5 A day Chocolate Avocado Mousse

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Sometimes I come across a recipe that I Just Have To Try. This is one of them. It ticks many boxes for me that I look for in a dessert (namely chocolate and speed) but also relatively healthy! My youngest Figlet LOATHES avocado with a passion but I think I might be able to tempt him with this.

This dessert is going to start a series of posts about Eating Your 5 A Day. Some days I find it really easy; other days not so much. I’m going to try and put together a load of recipes that are easy, kid friendly and full to the brim with veggies or fruit. Pick and choose the ones you like. They may become your Go To recipes!

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Ingredients

2 very, very ripe avocadoes
50g chocolate (good quality 70% solids otherwise it’s full of fat)
1 tablespoon cacao powder or cocoa powder (cacao is more bitter than cocoa)
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons sour cream

Break up the chocolate, pop it in a bowl and set above a saucepan of boiling water to melt. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

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Halve the avos….

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…and scoop out the flesh…..

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……straight into a blender with the cacao or cocoa powder and honey.

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Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whizz! I did a fair amount of scraping, stopping and starting of the mixer and sighing at this point. That’s when I wondered if a little Sour Cream might loosen the mixture and soften it too.  It did but if your avocadoes are riper than mine perhaps you won’t need to add this.

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Spoon into little dishes (it is Very Rich so you won’t need much) and chill.

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I grated a little chocolate on top just to show off a bit. So, the verdict? Smooth, creamy, rich, more-ish and oh-so-chocolately. When I got some friends to try it there was more than a little furrowing of the brow as they tried to guess the Mystery Ingredient. And Littlest Figlet? He tried it and gave it a one thumbs up and one thumbs down. Apparently his taste buds are Very Sensitive To Avocado…..! I think it’s a smashing little dessert and definitely worth a try and what a way to get some of your 5 A day!!

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A Very Flexible Courgette Pasta sauce

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Ah yes I am still harvesting and relishing those little (and not so little) courgettes. I still have quite a few recipes up my sleeve to share with you. I got a Very Useful Tip Off from Sue at The Quince Tree who pointed me in the direction of the Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall recipe for courgette pasta sauce. It sounded perfect….however…..I didn’t have all the ingredients hence the title of this post. That’s the beauty of the humble courgette; it is very understated and is just at home with creme fraiche as it is with tomatoes. So here is Sue’s/Hugh’s Courgette Sauce Recipe followed swiftly with my own….

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Slice up some courgettes with some thinly sliced garlic and sweat slowly in some olive oil and butter until they start to look meltingly delicious and a bit gooey.

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Add some freshly grated parmesan and a good dollap of creme fraiche and mash with a fork or potato masher. You can also add some crispy bacon too.

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Delicious, quick and easy peasy BUT…… if you don’t have creme fraiche, parmesan or bacon (like me when I wanted to make it the first time) try this……

Go with the sweating gently of the courgettes and garlic until meltingly delish. Then, add 2 tins of tomatoes and a dash of Plum Sauce (if you have it). If you haven’t got Plum Sauce and are calling me names at this point just remember this is a Flexible Sauce! Use something else or leave it out altogether. The courgettes really won’t mind at all. Add any number of veges that you might have lurking with intent in your fridge. Cook them down gently then blend them all together to a thick, tomatoey sauce.  Delicious, quick and easy peasy! Spread on pizzas or use in lasagne. The sky is the limit! Now, if at this point you’re thinking….ah but I don’t have any courgettes….well….. perhaps beans on toast??