Homemade SUGAR SALT Scrub

Homemade Sugar Salt Scrub

Winter is here in Colorado and its time for flaky, dry skin again! YAY! Well, not really yay…

Its time to add some permanent fixes to your skincare and here is a great addition.

I have started trying to find ways to use more organic, natural and chemical free items as much as possible. This scrub is made out of two simple ingredients; salt and sugar! Simply use this in the bath or shower to remove dead skin cells and keep your body feeling soft and perfect all winter long. It is especially great on the bikini line and underarms to prevent razor bumps.

 

Homemade SUGAR SALT Scrub

Ingredients:

3 cups Epsom salt

2.5 cups brown sugar

10 drops essential oil (optional). I used Jasmine on this batch

Takes 5-10 minutes start to finish.

 

In a large bowl, mix Epsom Sal & Brown Sugar together until well blended. Add desired essential oil and mix. Store in an airtight container to prevent brown sugar from clumping.

Finally, I like to keep my scrub in a small jar by the tub and refill it as I use it. Whatever you use to store your new scrub, just make sure that its air tight s the brown sugar doesn’t harden. You can find a glass jar with a scoop at Hobby Lobby for under $5.

I get about 5 uses out of one small jar and about 30 uses out of this mixture. I estimate that this costs about $5.00 to make. I buy my Epsom salt at Costco which makes the price even lower!

Use to scrub head to toe in the bath or shower, especially before shaving or applying self tanner. Follow with your favorite lotion or oil.

 

If you’re like me and when you went to grab your brown sugar and it was a giant rock here’s what to do:

Place hardened brown sugar in large microwave safe container. Place the brown sugar and another small microwave safe container with water in the microwave (this is to add moisture back to the sugar). Microwave for 3 minutes. Break up the brown sugar brick in the bowl until it is back to original granulated consistency.

Happy Scrubbing!

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise

Since I am spending a lot of time cooking for one, I have been looking for recipes that I can freeze or turn into something else later in the week. Soups are such a savior for me because I can make a big batch, keep out two servings and freeze the rest for later. That way I don’t have to eat the same thing for a week in a row and I have something convenient and usually healthy after working all day. It helps a ton knowing that I can come home, pull soup from the freezer and have dinner in under 20 minutes with very little effort. I have saved a fortune doing this since I don’t feel compelled to stop for take out! Bonus: a soup like this is both economical and elegant.

I have been inspired this week to pull out Mastering the Art of French Cooking in honor of Julia Child’s birthday month. Leek and Potato soup is one of the very first recipes in the book and a wonderful easy way to dig in. I have some favorites of hers, but things like Beef Bourguignon or Chocolate Mousse are complicated and have a ton of ingredients. Sometimes making these dishes, I feel like I use every pot and pan I own! This soup was simple, straightforward with very few ingredients. It is also really versatile. The first night, after cooking, I just ladled it into a mug to be eaten on the couch. The second night, I had this as chilled vichyssoise; perfect for a warm summer evening. Fresh herbs from my garden on top and a glass of Rosé were the perfect compliment. If you wanted to go a step further, you could use this as a base and add anything you love. It is the perfect canvas to get creative. Enjoy a classic!

Vichyssoise (Leek and Potato Soup)

  • 3-4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white & a bit of the tender green part)
  • 3-4 cups diced potatoes (baking potatoes recommended)
  • 6 to 7 cups water
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
  • 4-6 T heavy cream or 2-3 T butter (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chives or parsley, minced

Bring the leeks, potatoes and water to the boil in a large pot. Salt lightly, cover partially, and simmer 40-50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Mash the vegetables or purée the soup. Taste, and correct seasoning. Off the heat, stir in the cream or butter. After chilling the soup, you may wish to stir in a little more cream. Taste carefully again, and correct the seasoning (sometimes salt becomes muted when chilled). Top each serving with a sprinkle of chives or parsley.

Note: the original recipe calls for water only. I almost always sub chicken stock for water, but refrained this time. I think stock always adds something, especially when you have homemade stock on hand. I also used an immersion blender which produced a silky texture. You could purée half the soup and leave it a bit chunkier.

 

Sunday Supper

Summertime and grilling go hand in hand. Even more so when my wonderful BF is here to help me divide and conquer on dinner prep. Tonight’s dinner was a great team effort and if I do say so myself, one of the better things we have put together in a while! A combination of Cedar Plank Salmon with a Soy Thyme Marinade, Grilled Potato Salad with a Lemon and Scallion Vinaigrette finished with a dessert of Grilled Pineapple Glazed with Whiskey Peach Jam with Whipped Cream and Mint. Such a nice way to spend a Sunday evening while preparing for the week ahead! The cedar plank really adds a special flavor to salmon without being overpowering. You will also see some lovely caramelization on the fish. The potato salad has a fantastic heat from the jalapeño with brightness from the lemon and scallion. We also included some grilled bell pepper to round out the plate. Finishing with the pineapple gave the perfect sweet way to end the meal. Enjoy a healthy but flavorful meal; great for a group or just a quiet meal for two. Enjoy the week ahead!

~Kelly

Cedar Plank Salmon with Soy Thyme Vinaigrette

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1 Lb Wild Salmon

4 T Soy Lime Marinade from Sisters Pantry (You can sub soy sauce and lime juice with some crushed garlic and/or grated ginger)

1 Sprig of fresh thyme

1 Cedar Plank, soaked for 1-2 hours

Place soy & thyme in a zip top bag with the salmon. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to several hours. Pre-heat grill to high temp. Place Cedar plank on the grill with the salmon on top. Close the lid and allow to cook for 15-17 minutes. Remove from the grill and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Grilled Potato and Scallion Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Adapted from Food and Wine

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1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes

Kosher salt & Freshly ground black pepper

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Juice of one lemon juice

1 small jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, grilled then thinly sliced

In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then halve lengthwise. Meanwhile, light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the potatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill cut side down over high heat until lightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. In a large bowl, whisk the 1/3 cup of olive oil with the vinegar and lemon juice. Add the scallions, jalapeño and potatoes and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Note: I improvised a bit since our store did not have fingerling potatoes. Since the small boiling potatoes I used were small, I wrapped them in foil cut side down to save myself from turning a thousand tiny potatoes on the grill. This was still a fantastic dish, but the grill marks and char would add something. The original recipe grilled the scallions as well, but I liked the bite of the fresh scallion.

 

Grilled Pineapple with Peach Bourbon Jam, Whipped Cream and Fresh Mint

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1 Pineapple, cleaned and cored, cut into 1-2″ sticks

2-4 T Whiskey Peach Jam, we used Deliciousness (this is optional but highly recommended)

Whipped Cream to taste

Place pineapple in foil and cover with peach jam. Grill pineapple until tender, juicy and beginning to caramelize (about 10-12 minutes). Place 1-2 sticks of pineapple per plate, garnish with whipped cream and fresh mint. Enjoy!

 

**All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for any recommendations in this post. These are things I enjoy and use in my kitchen!

Grilled Veggie and Chicken Farro Salad with Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

As promised, I want to share my new recipe attempt this week in my Farro Salad made in the Instant Pot. I got the Instant Pot as a gift for Christmas. At first, I felt intimidated by it, but Mary had a stove problem and was left without one for a few weeks. I took my Instant Pot over along with some crockpot meals I had made and stored in the freezer. It was a good introduction and now I have been trying to incorporate it into my regular repertoire. Farro seemed like a great fit for a pressure cooker. It is a wonderful grain that I first made when I had Blue Apron. I had bought some after that and it has just sat in my pantry waiting for the right recipe (or for me to remember it was there 😀 ).  Farro can take a long time to cook because it absorbs less water than rice over a longer time frame. The Instant Pot takes care of that taking the cooking from an hour to about 20 minutes. I also love that I can set it and not worry too much about it, since it will let me know when the time is up. The other great thing about farro is that you can mix things up early in the week and it will hold up without getting soggy. The grilled veggies add great smoky flavor and the vinaigrette is bright and flavorful. Enjoy right away or later in the week!

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Grilled Veggie and Chicken Farro Salad with Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Juice from two lemons, reserve the zest from one

1 cup uncooked farro

Kosher salt & cracked black pepper

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 red onion, cut into wedges

3 zucchini, sliced lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, torn basil leaves, and thyme leaves (or whatever you have on hand)

 

For the Vinaigrette:

Mix the juice from one lemon, olive oil, salt pepper and honey if you have it. Reserve for the salad.

For the Farro:

I started the farro on the saute function with a bit of butter and some green onions. Once the onions start to soften, add the farro to toast the grain until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Cancel that function and add the liquid. I used chicken stock, but water would also work. You can season this with whatever you like for any recipe you have on hand. Put the lid on and lock. Set the function to manual and set the timer for 15-20 minutes. I live at altitude and sometimes grains need a little extra time and liquid here. I usually add an extra 1/4 cup of liquid and 5-10 minutes of time. You could shorten the cooking time and let the Instant Pot slow release. I am a bit impatient and let it go a little longer and used the quick release. I pulled the lid off and left it on keep warm for about 5 minutes to let some of the liquid finish absorb. Unlike rice, you will still need to strain off the extra liquid. Once finished, put in a large bowl and toss with a couple tablespoons of vinaigrette and the lemon zest. Set aside while you prepare the veggies and chicken.

For the Grill:

Combine juice from one lemon, the crushed garlic, half of the the herbs, salt, pepper and a little olive oil in a zip top bag. Add the chicken and marinate 30 minutes to several hours. Prepare the veggies and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill. Cook the chicken 5-7 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Cook the veggies until charred and tender. Times will vary depending on what you use. Chop finished chicken and veggies into bite sized and roughly uniform pieces.

Finish by combining the cooked farro, veggies, chicken and toss with the rest of the vinaigrette (to taste). Enjoy!

Kelly

 

**All opinions are my own and I was not compensated by any of the products mentioned. These are just things I use in my kitchen.

 

Super Simple Easter Brunch!

Super Simple Easter Brunch!

Easter is early this year on April 5! If your menu isn’t planned yet, enlist some friends and get this easy brunch for a crowd together for Sunday!

Menu:

  • Ham
  • Egg Strata
  • Sweet Potato Tater Tots
  • Deviled eggs
  • Chilled Asparagus lemon salad
  • Fruit Salad
  • Sugar cookie and Dessert tray
  • Rolls for sandwiches
  • Biscuits
  • Condiments
  • Mimosas

Normally we purchase a Honey Baked Ham, of course you can’t go wrong there. Instead this year we are trying a ham from the famous New Braunfels Smokehouse). We’ll let you know how if it was a good decision!

HAPPY EASTER TO YOU AND YOURS!

Specialty Coffee At Home

One of my very favorite parts of the week is our weekend coffee ritual. We pull out the special cups saved for weekends only and go through the ritual of making pour over coffee. BF really has taken on the art that is pour over. For those of you who have not tried it, pour over creates a very smooth cup of coffee that is not oily like you get with a French press. Really, you get all the best out of the beans. Though I usually let BF take on the coffee making responsibility, I am learning to do it myself and even managed to make my own coffee when he was out of town. Just ask my college roommate, I never really learned to make coffee even in a regular old Mr. Coffee, so this is a HUGE step for me!

If you have a few minutes and a few tools, you too can have an extra special cup of coffee at home. We have learned that the process is important, but it is only as good as the ingredients and tools you use. We got a Hario pour over funnel, pot and kettle. The kettle really is an important key because it lets you be very precise when pouring the water. We also have our favorite beans from one of the local roasters. After trying a few versions, we think the filters that go with the set from Hario really do fit best. You can make others works, but those are the most consistent. Even spending a little more to get this done at home is way cheaper than a daily habit of picking it up! BF finds the process a good way to ease into the day and I get to benefit from the product!

Kelly

 

Pour Over Perfection

Begin by laying out all of your tools: the funnel, pot, grinder, beans, filter, scale, and kettle.


Fill the kettle with water and get it heating while you work on everything else.


Next, measure the beans to be ground. We use about 30g and have a measuring cup that is just right so I will admit we don’t use the scale every time. J Once they are measured, grind the beans and set aside. If you want to be really precise, you can also weigh the water as you make the coffee to keep you honest, but we have not taken to doing that regularly.


Take the filter and fold it along the seam so that it lays flat all around the cone, place the filter in the funnel.


Once the water is boiling, start by heating the pot with some hot water from the kettle and swirl it, then dump the water out to start with a warm receptacle.


Next, rinse the filter…this is one that took me a while to learn, but you just have to wet the filter with the hot water to remove some of the paper taste and prep it for brewing.


Add the ground coffee and use your thumb to make a small indentation in the middle. This allows the next step called the bloom to happen evenly. This is a step you don’t HAVE to include, but it helps focus your initial pour and get more constant in a hurry!


Pour the hot water right in the well you made just enough to cover the grounds. You will see bubbles start to form, this is the bloom getting the coffee started.


Now take a spoon and vigorously stir the bloom. This will help make sure there are no clumps in the grounds so you get an even brew.


As the water begins to drain, begin to pour again. Start in the center and work your way out in a spiral motion stopping short of getting all the way out to the filter. Add enough water to fill the cone about halfway. Allow to brew and add more water repeating the process before the grounds are completely dry.


One barista told me something I find helpful, think about controlling the kettle movement from your shoulder, not just from your arm and wrist…try it! It helps!


Once you reach about ½ of a brewed pot, you can take the water all the way to the top of the cone to finish it off.


Pour yourself a cup and enjoy!!



 

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Happy Labor Day! I have been on a healthy kick of late, but everyone needs a treat now and again, especially on a holiday! If you have a cheat day coming up (or just want an amazing treat!), put these on your list. (BF and I actually ended up just splitting one cookie and sharing the rest with our co-workers just to satisfy the craving). I think it is hard to beat the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe but these take chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level! Start with disks of Valrhona Dark Chocolate, add it to perfect dough, then use a unique technique to get a cookie soft in the middle and crunchy on the edges…can you say YUM?! These cookies are generous in size, so you may only get a dozen or so out of a batch. We have been searching for this recipe for over a year. The idea came from a mix that has now been discontinued. Be prepared to be patient and prep the dough ahead to allow to cool. These really are worth the wait!

Kelly

 

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons of cake flour

1 2/3 cups bread flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon coarse salt (we used kosher)

2 ½ sticks softened butter

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of pink salt

~2 cups dark chocolate disks (we found ours at Whole Foods and used 60% dark and 64% Valrhona disks)

 

  1. Sift together both kinds of flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a small bowl. Stir in coarse salt.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and both kinds of sugar until fluffy.
  3. Blend in eggs, cream and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients.
  4. Break up some of the chips in a food processor. You will end up with a variety of sizes with lots of whole disks. Think about what you like, but those disks will give you pockets of chocolate and some pretty decoration on the top! It will look like A LOT of chocolate, but ends up being just right.

  5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 1-24 hours. Yes, 24 hours! We actually rushed it by putting this in the freezer for half an hour, but I think it is worth waiting the full 24.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°. Line two cookie sheets with a silpat or parchment paper.

  7. Scoop dough and form into disks (about 2-3″ in diameter). Stack a smaller disk on top of the bottom disk like you are building a snowman…the yummiest snowman ever! This is what really gives you the soft, gooey center with a crispy edge.
  8. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with pink salt. Chill another 10 minutes on the pan before baking.

  9. Bake one sheet at a time on the lowest rack for 13 minutes rotate 180° after 6 minutes.

  10. Look for a light blonde center with brown edges. (See the salt? That might be the biggest key to these!)

Grab a cold glass of milk and enjoy!

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

If you are like me, you are always looking for a healthy option you can make ahead for lunch. Quinoa always seems like a good healthy choice, but I haven’t really found a way I liked it…until now! This is light and fresh with lots of healthy additions. Bonus, it holds up really well all week! I like to make this on Sunday and it is just as good on Friday as it is on Monday. I love that I can eat it cold at my desk which makes life so easy. Let me know what you think!

Kelly

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked quinoa

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

Juice and zest of 4-5 limes

2 Tablespoons honey

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Kosher or sea salt

Pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

2 red or yellow bell peppers, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped

Rinse quinoa 3 times to remove the bitter outside layer. Cook the quinoa with chicken stock and water (I add a little extra liquid because we are at high altitude). Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer for 30 seconds, bring back to a boil for another 30 seconds then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes until cooked through and tender. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the lime juice with the zest, honey, a pinch or two of salt & pepper, and olive oil, until the dressing comes together. Add the cilantro and mix.

Add the chopped scallions, peppers, carrots, black beans, chicken, and quinoa and gently toss in the dressing.

Garnish with additional cilantro and lime zest, if desired. Eat immediately or pack up for lunches for the week. Great hot or cold!

Tangerine Beef

I am a huge fan of stir fry; you can prep ahead of time (or even freeze in the marinade), it is a great way to clean out the fridge, it is usually healthy and everything goes in one pot! This is one that BF has been loving lately. This is a take-out-at-home kind of meal that will leave you satisfied for Chinese without all the extra fat. I usually add peppers to this, but it would be a great beef and broccoli substitute also. The sauce is sweet and salty and the cornstarch help to reduce everything to nicely cover the beef. I have not tried it with other types of meat, but I am sure that would be great too. As a freezer meal, I usually freeze it with the soy and cornstarch and freeze the sauce in a separate bag to be added at the right point. Flank steak is a great cut of meat that tends to be relatively inexpensive. It can be tough, so marinading it really helps. I have also found that the cornstarch really gives this a bit of extra help making it super tender. I like to cook the meat on pretty high heat (even though it can cause a bit of smoke and splatter) but I think it helps to sear the meat and keep it juicy on the inside. I did find a great tip last week: if you cut the steak when it is partially frozen, you can get super thin slices. A really good knife is on my wish list, but that is how I make due with what I have! This originally came from Guy’s Big Bite on the food network and I have tweaked it a bit over time. Try it out for an easy week night meal!

Kelly

 

Tangerine Beef

 

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound flank steak or tri-tip, cut in thin strips on the bias

1 bell pepper cleaned and sliced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons chili sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice (sometimes I cheat and use tangerine juice from Whole Foods)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 scallions, chopped

1/4 tangerine, zested

 

In a plastic bag combine the soy sauce and cornstarch and mix well. Add beef, cover, and let marinate for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Mix the sherry, hoisin, honey, chili sauce, soy sauce, and tangerine juice in a container and shake until combined.

In large pan or wok, heat oil on high. Add the ginger and beef and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. I like to do this in batches to get a really good sear, but you can do it all together if you have a great big pan!

Then add the veggies followed by the sauce mixture.

 

…and cook for another 2-5 minutes on medium heat until sauce thickens. See the bubbles?? J

Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallions and tangerine zest. Enjoy!

Mise En Place

As I was making our Saturday morning eggs today, I got to thinking about learning to cook. More specifically, about what I think may be one of the most important things to learn in cooking, something that can take you from being a novice, to being a great cook. Three words: Mise En Place. All mise en place means is “to put in place.” In other words, gather and prepare everything you need. Have you ever started in on a recipe to get part way through and realize you needed to marinate something first or maybe peel the potatoes or maybe you are missing a key ingredient. So now you are stuck hurrying to clean them while you hope whatever you have in the pan doesn’t burn. By prepping ahead of time, you can be much more efficient. Why do you think cooking shows make things look so easy? When you have done all the tedious work ahead of time, you can make any recipe look easy!

I realized this morning that this is something I do now for things as simple as scrambled eggs. It has become a natural step for me. When you have a complicated recipe like beef bourguignon, or an elaborate layer cake, it makes sense to gather all your ingredients, but for eggs? Well, if you have all of your veggies chopped, garlic minced, eggs beaten, when you heat your pan, all you have to do is throw things in. You won’t be running to the fridge (or the store) to grab one more thing you desperately need. I even set up my kitchen in a way that some of my mise en place is always accessible. Things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices are always close at hand so I can grab them whenever I need them.

This concept also translates really well to prepping for your week. Remember when we talked about menu planning? I often go one step further and prep parts of my dinner recipes for the week. For example, I might slice and marinate my beef for stir fry, cook chicken ahead to throw in salad or tacos, blanch green beans. It is a way of putting parts of your mise en place together before you even need it, making you weeknight cooking much easier! I know when I walk in the door after a long day; I can usually still find a way to pull together a great meal when all I have to do is finish everything. If I don’t prep ahead there is a good chance I will just be grabbing take out on the way home.

Mary has always done this, especially when we know we need to make a bunch of things at once. You can always lay out dry ingredients separate from wet ingredients ahead of time and come back to them later. This is just one more way to make cooking much easier!

Do you have shortcuts that help you in the kitchen?

Kelly