Gluten-free Ma’amoul Cookies

GF-Ma'amoul-Cookieshero

Introducing this Middle-Eastern holiday cookie! Popular during the holiday seasons all over in the Middle East, the Ma’amoul cookies are also known as the Holiday Cookies. Traditionally made with a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour, then filled with dates, pistachios, walnuts or a combination of nuts. These cookies also come in different shapes and sizes, which is actually an indication of what filling is inside; round-shaped for date filling and oval-shaped for a nut filling. Make these at home and pop them into a festive jar for the perfect Christmas stocking filler. This is a gluten-free version of the Ma’amoul cookie, a versatile tea-time treat or road trip snack on the way to the beach. 

Serves: 20 – 24 small cookies
Prepping time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 – 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

DOUGH

DATE FILLING

METHOD: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Soak the dates in boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredient for the dough together. Add in the melted ghee/coconut oil until GF-Ma'amoul-Cookies3combined. Cover and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain the water from the dates and add to a blender along. Then add all of the DATE FILLING ingredients – except for the walnuts. Blend until smooth, then add walnuts and pulse until the walnuts are crushed into smaller pieces.
  5. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and roll out 1 tablespoon sized-dough balls, or about 17g each, for a more consistent size.
  6. Form a dough ball and flatten in between palms of your hands
  7. Place the dough ball on parchment paper and add 1 tsp of the date filling in the centre of the cookie dough.
  8. Curl the edges in to cover the filling, and form a ball with your hand.
  9. Then press your Ma’amoul cookie pattern into the dough, or if you don’t have a cookie pattern use the bottom of crystal glass to make a pattern on top.
  10. Spread out evenly on the baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until light golden colour.
  11. Allow to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar or xylitol dusting sugar, and add to your cookie jar.

NOTES:

  • If you choose to use coconut oil, the cookies might not hold its pattern as nicely as with the ghee. The texture with the coconut oil is more of a crunchy crumble cookie and more of a soft crumble when made with ghee.
  • You can make your own ghee (clarified butter): slowly heat up butter in a saucepan over the stovetop, keep on stirring to prevent the butter from browning. After 5– 7 minutes you’ll see that a white ‘foam’ layer (the milk solids) form on top of the butter. Take the saucepan off the stovetop and using a tablespoon scoop the foam layer off the butter. Place the saucepan back on the stovetop and repeat until the butter is clear. The clear butter is ghee (save the the white foam as a spread for your toast!).
  • Instead of walnuts you can use Pistachios or almonds. You can also omit the dates and use a combo of Pistachios, walnuts and honey for the filling.

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Eco-Friendly Gifts for the Whole Family

Eco-Friendly Gifts for The Whole Family

As we gear up for the festive season, most of us are keeping our eyes peeled and ears perked for a hint about the perfect gift to give our loved ones. The year is ending, and as we plan to attend office parties, Secret Santa’s are being assigned accordingly. My own brother is a December baby, so every year our family weighs the option of either getting him one big present or splitting up the gifts respectively. 

Finding the perfect token to show someone you care is something we can all admit to struggling with. Here are some eco-friendly suggestions you can consider as we enter the most generous time of the year: 

AROMATHERAPY BUNDLE FOR THE SELF CARE FUNDI

Aromatherapy has proven to be effective in relieving pain, improving sleep patterns, and reducing stress and anxiety. If you’re not buying this for a loved one who practises mindfulness on a regular basis, someone you think might need to would definitely benefit from this gift. The bundle includes an oil burner, beeswax tealight candles and a few indigenous essential oils. Depending on what oils you get in the pack, you’ll want to top up on lavender, rosemary, as well as clary sage. Lavender treats anxiety, insomnia and restlessness. Rosemary can improve brain function and increase circulation, while sage works as a natural antidepressant.

GET SET GROW SET FOR THE SOMEONE WITH GREEN FINGERS

Gardening is such a relaxing pastime. Not only are you reconnecting with the earth in a very intimate way, but you also get a healthy amount of Vitamin D through exposure to direct sunlight (that doesn’t mind you wearing a protective layer of sunscreen by the way). This would be a thoughtful gift for someone who is passionate about their health and nutrition. It can be incredibly rewarding preparing a meal consisting of ingredients you have grown yourself. Because you’ve tended to it, you can ensure that non-toxic pesticides were incorporated into the gardening process. Give this to a friend or family member that is serious about avoiding GMOs. If your little ones are curious about growing their own treats too, My Eco Sprout has a strawberry popcorn set they will adore.

KOMBUCHA BREWING STARTER KIT FOR THE HEALTH NUT

All you need to brew your own booch in one convenient craft box. The starter kit comes complete with a brewing bottle, the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), and comprehensive instructions. Safe enough for the whole family to drink, kombucha gets to work on your gut to promote healthy digestion and liver detoxification. If you have a restless teen who is looking for a cool project to dive into, brewing this fermented probiotic will keep them occupied.

REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS FOR THE FORGETFUL SHOPPER

You’ve done your week’s shopping and you’re wheeling your trolley towards the till. While the cashier rings up your groceries, you reach down for your FTN hemp bag and then you realise you left it on the kitchen counter as you grabbed your keys and ran out the door. DOH! How about buying a few reusable grocery bags to stuff into each Christmas stocking this year? You’ll have to remind everyone to put them in their cars or handbags, of course, so they’re never forced to resort to buying plastic bags ever again

COOKING/YOGA/SELF DEFENSE CLASSES FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS IT ALL

We all have someone in our circle who is a bit of an enigma. They seem to have it all so you’re stumped as to what to get them. That person is my father; a practical man who only has what he needs. If you ever ask him what he wants and he’ll tell you he wants to be able to get what he needs when he needs it. It can be impossible shopping for people like that. So don’t. Gift them with experiences like helicopter pilot lessons or an all-access card to the aquarium. Since they seem to have acquired their fill in physical things, give them something they will remember forever – a memory.

The simple secrets to making gifts extra special

Robyn’s top picks: The eco gifts I’m most excited about this year

Homemade Vegan Gingerbread Cookie Jar

 

What’s The Deal With Essential Oils?

Aromatherapy is a relaxation and restorative technique that uses plant oils to heal the body. Quite literally, as you inhale, the molecules from the essential oils through the ‘aroma’,  begin to work on stress levels, cognitive performance and circulation – among other things. When receiving an aromatherapy massage, the masseuse or aromatherapist might typically light a few scented candles as well as massage you with essential oils. Some psychologists even utilise aromatherapy to create stress-free environments, while others’ intentions are to trigger certain memories and experiences.

So where do you start? Since we’re heading into the colder months, it might be a good idea to stock up on a few immune-boosting, chest-clearing oils, but I’ll include a few versatile evergreen essential oils:

(Remember: you MUST keep your oils in dark glass bottles, and away from direct sunlight otherwise they will degrade and lose their effectiveness)

Please Note: Faithful to Nature is an online retail store. Our green team is all about helping you unlock your full potential to live a healthy life; however we are not medical professionals. Please do consult your registered healthcare practitioner when seeking medical advice. In general, when using essential oils, you should always adhere to the following: 

  • Mix your essential oil with a carrier oil before applying to your skin or in a bath
  • Always patch-test the oil on a small area of your skin for any possibility of a reaction
  • If you are pregnant/ breastfeeding, please ask your practitioner before using any essential oils
  • Using essential oils internally must ONLY be done under the guidance of a registered practitioner
  • To find a qualified & registered aromatherapist, visit AROMA SA

Chamomile

Some of you might be drinking dried chamomile flowers it in your tea. If that’s you, you’re not wrong. Light a few chamomile candles if you want to create a very relaxing and soothing atmosphere. To make the most of the sleep-inducing oil, I recommend adding 5-10 drops to your bath (along with a carrier oil like jojoba) so you can slide from the tub and straight into bed.

Eucalyptus

Mother’s medicine cabinet was always stocked with this decongestant because I had asthma as a child which meant I was always phlegmy. Kick the flu in one night through steam inhalation (add a few drops of eucalyptus into boiling water, cover yourself in a towel and inhale the fumes) or by rubbing some directly onto your chest with a carrier oil.
Some of you might not know this, but eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic and pain-reliever too. Massage bruised or torn muscles with the eucalyptus-carrier oil combo, and it’ll work as well as Arnica.

Geranium

If you suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), you’ll be happy you bought a diffuser just before winter really sets in. Geranium comes in a whole manner of vibrant colours and variations, while the oil itself has relaxing and mood-lifting qualities. 

Rosemary

If you have an excitable child who struggles with settling down, rosemary oil could be effective in getting them to work.  Allow rosemary essential oil to diffuse lightly in their room or where they sit down to work and it will help to clear your little ones mind while stimulating their curiosity in a productive way.

Sage

Burning sage, to cleanse the energy in a space, is a ritual I have not been inducted into. What I do religiously use sage for, however, is for balancing my hormones, and treat menstrual cramps. The essential oil balances thyroid levels and has been linked to improving depression too. Remember, seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner before using essential oils to treat medical conditions. 

Tea tree

White heads, acne scars and dandruff be gone! This antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral essential oil works magic on your skin without leaving it dry and flaky. For your skin, use tea tree oil with carrier oil like shea butter after you’ve washed your face. To combat dandruff, simply add about 5 drops into your regular shampoo. Shake the bottle well, and wash and condition hair as normal. 

Ylang ylang

Just saying ‘Ylang ylang’ already has me feeling better. Get that instant relaxation feeling by applying it directly to your temples with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil. It smells absolutely delicious, so keep a carrier-oil combo ready and dab a few drops onto your wrist if you’re low on body mist. The oil has been proven to increase sexual desire; perhaps it can even be your own kind of love potion?

 

 

The perfect starter kit to your Essential Oil journey from OCO Life.
Get it through our online store for R999

A DIY Mother’s Day

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

Mothers are pretty amazing – I’m sure we can all agree. So how do we adequately show our appreciation to the brave few who’ve hazarded one of the hardest jobs out there? The answer is we can’t. But don’t let that discourage you; there are many ways for us to get incredibly close, and Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity!

Gift vouchers, floral bouquets and brunch all sounds lovely, but if you want to give your mama a gift from the heart, consider rolling your sleeves up and making her something unique. Thankfully, most of us have graduated from pasta art and finger paintings, so we can make something really beautiful that our mothers will treasure.

A Spin on Flowers

As pretty as they are, flowers don’t last. Ensure your gift survives the week by swapping out a bouquet of roses with a tray of pansy or purslane planters. If your mom regularly whips up yummy treats in the kitchen, she’ll enjoy decorating her plates with these delicious edible flowers that have wonderful health benefits too.

If your mum has a sweet tooth, she can grab a lollipop made with edible flowers as she dashes out to run errands.

Why not upcycle an old bowl to make a gorgeous hanging planter your mama can grow herbs and spices in? Or remind your mommy how long lasting your love for her is, with a bowl of hardy succulents that will outlive any sunflower steeped in a vase of water would.

Not Your Regular Pillow

If we know anything about women, it’s that they generally love a creative assortment of scatter cushions. Whether they’re lounging on a bed, decorating the couch, or setting up a cosy reading nook, pillowscaping is an art form. Take your mother’s love of upholstery  to the next level. Make her a cuddle cushion out of your embrace so she can snuggle up to your proxy when she misses you.

If you’re not the only chicklet your mother hen cares for, it would elate her to see cuddle cushions of all her kids – but you are still the favourite. She knows it, you know it too.

Compile a pamper pack

Being a mother is a tireless job that never ends. Between all the late-night phone calls, impromptu babysitting requests and surprise baked goods, your mom might find the time for a relaxing bath. This is your chance to show her you care about her R&R time.

Make a bunch of bath bombs with lavender, chamomile, and other fragrances you know your mama will love. They’re difficult to get right, so settle for homemade bath salts if you’re not completely confident in your capabilities. 

Amp up her relaxation by converting antique tea sets into literal tealight candles. Raid your local thrift shop for crockery that will cost you pennies, and make them at home

Hook. Line. And here’s the sinker: if your mother is anything like mine, a custom tea blend would be the perfect pairing for a relaxing candle lit bath. The internet is a great resource for recipes and tutorials; make sure your tea is made of plants and spices that have healing properties. Who knows, you might make tea so good, you’ll start getting regular orders from your mother and her friends.

Upcycle

Very few things will excite an eco-mom more than an impressive upcycled gift. Get the little ones involved with this cost effective present of converting a mason jar into a framed vase. Slap a fresh coat of pastel paint on a vase with a picture of the family on it, and the woman of the house will think of you all when she’s tending to her indoor plants.

Why not give your old bedding a second chance by using it to make bedtime eye mask. Printed lavender sachets would be a great gift too. Not only is she keeping her closet smelling fresh, but she’ll have cute picture of her loved ones waiting to surprise her every time she opens the cupboard door.

Mother’s Day Recipes: A Menu to Spoil Mom

 

Hot-Cross Cinnabuns

Sweet, sticky, spicy and absolutely dripping with indulgence… Mmmm… this Easter we’re bringing you a baked goodie that is the perfect marriage of your favourite treats: the classic Cinnamon Bun and festive Hot-Cross Bun. There is no time or place where the Hot-Cross Cinnabon would go unwelcome, but serve it best hot, straight out the oven or warmed up with breakfast and tea, or even as an indulgent dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Not a fan of raisins? Swap them out for dried dates, any dried fruit or simply leave them out altogether.
  • What sugar you use is entirely up to you it wouldn’t affect the structure or texture of the buns too much.
  • Coconut oil instead of butter (vegan or regular) will not yield the same results.

Makes 6 – 8 buns
Vegan

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH :

FILLING

  • 3 Tbsps vegan butter, melted (and cooled to room temp)
  • ¼ cup coconut blossom sugar
  • 2 – 3 Tbsps cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup raisins

TOPPINGS (Optional)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar & 1-2 Tbsps almond milk  (combined) or melted coconut butter or lightly brushed with syrup of choice

METHOD:

  1. FOR THE DOUGH: In a saucepan heat up the butter and milk until the butter is melted (ensure not to reach boiling point). Once melted pour into a large bowl and allow to cool down to around the temp of bath water.
  2. Once at this cooler temp, add the instant yeast to the milk/butter mixture but don’t stir. Set aside to activate for 10 minutes. NOTE: Adding the yeast when the mixture is too hot will kill its active capabilities.
  3. After 10 minutes add the salt and sugar to the large bowl of yeast/milk mixture and give it a good stir.
  4. Whisk the 2 cups flour, salt, cinnamon and coconut sugar in a medium bowl.
  5. Slowly start adding the flour mixture to the wet ingredients;  ½ a cup at a time while mixing in-between. The dough should be a little sticky, don’t overwork it.
  6. Use the ½ cup of flour to dust the work surface and rolling pin. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and knead it a little without over-working it, form a ball and transfer the dough to a sprayed/oil bowl and cover up the bowl with cling wrap to rise for 90 minutes.
  7. Once 90 minutes has passed, the dough should have risen to twice its original size. Transfer onto the floured surface and roll out into a rectangular shape. Brush with melted butter.
  8. FOR THE FILLING: Combine your filling of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coconut sugar. Evenly sprinkle the filling and raisins on top of the buttered dough and then tightly roll the dough (lengthways).
  9. Use a serrated knife or unflavoured floss (place floss underneath dough, pull up on both sides, criss-cross the two ends and pull outwards) to cut the roll into 6 – 8 buns.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180℃.
  11. Transfer buns to a lightly buttered baking dish and brush them with a little butter. Cover the dish with the same cling wrap used earlier and let the buns rise until the oven reaches 180℃.
  12. Remove the cling wrap and bake for 45 minutes or until golden-brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then drizzle with your desired toppings.
  13. Serve warm.
  14. You can store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

If you made this recipe let me know what you think in the comments below or tag @thegoodroots #thegoodroots because I love seeing your creations!

Adapted from Minimalist Baker’s cinnamon roll recipe.

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Traditional Easter Poppy Seed Roll

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Back to our Roots: Herbal Hair Dyes

Humans have been making use of Mother Nature and all her natural secrets for thousands of years, from the air we breathe to the nutrients we gain from the foods she provides. One such natural gem is different plants and their ability to dye our hair and skin. Two such plant dyes, and the most well-known ones, are indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and henna (Lawsonia inermis), which are still used today as effective hair dyes and conditioners. And as only Mother Nature can provide, it is now becoming more widely known that these plants not only colour and condition hair but also benefit the whole body.

Henna maintains the acid-alkaline balance of the scalp that helps to eliminate dandruff, itchiness and premature hair loss. It binds to the keratin protein in hair and colours hair by coating each strand in a protective film. This seals and repairs the hair cuticle, reducing breakage and giving hair a lovely shine.

Henna is not only good for hair though, it can be used to cool burns and sooth ringworm, eczema and fungal infections. Indigo has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat depression and to detoxify the liver. A simple paste made from its leaves helps heal sores and ulcers.

When henna and indigo are used together, they work synergistically to dye hair in rich shades of red to black.

Of course, our quick fix culture puts a higher demand on, well, everything. The same is true with hair dye. Chemical hair dyes came about as a solution to this quick fix desire and have been around for just over 150 years. Chemical hair dye has fast action and colour reliability; especially when covering grey hair, but these come with a price of possible health problems and allergic reactions.

However, as we move into a time when we realise that our health is the one true thing that we have full control over, and as we create awareness around those things that are harmful to us, more people want to switch to healthier options to colour their hair. These options include 100% herbal hair dyes (which rely on henna and indigo to colour the hair) and low chemical hair dyes that have been formulated with the lowest possible concentrations of chemicals.

It helps to be informed about hair dye chemicals so that the best choices can be made. All chemical hair dyes contain one or more of the Para-dyes. This is unavoidable unfortunately. Chemicals such as para- phenylenediamine and M-aminophenol are Para-dyes and will trigger adverse reactions in anyone sensitive to this group of chemicals. Choose a low chemical hair dye that has the lowest concentrations of Para-dyes possible.

Common hair dye chemicals which you can avoid entirely are ethanolamine, all the resorcinol chemicals, toluene chemicals, naphthol and ammonia. These are known carcinogens and hormone-disruptors and have no place on our hair!

Luckily, we are able to bring you a 100% herbal solution to any hair colouring desires with products like Love My Hair. The certified organic 100% Herbal hair dyes contain no chemicals at all, just henna, indigo and five wonderful Ayurvedic herbs to colour and condition your hair and scalp. The Low Chemical hair dyes contain only seven chemicals in extremely low quantities, as well as five certified organic Ayurvedic herbal extracts.

Using herbal and low chemical hair dyes has many advantages. There is no doubt that using plant extracts to dye and condition our hair not only nourishes our hair and scalp, it also helps to reduce the chemical load on our bodies and the environment. This can only bring good health!

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Deconstructed Guac: The Ultimate Entertainment Platter

Deconstructed Guac The Ultimate Festive Platter

Forget the cheese and crackers. Spice up your table this festive season by offering guests the ultimate deconstructed guacamole platter instead!

A deconstructed what-what?

Okay, okay… How does this sound: a beautifully presented avocado salad, bursting with all the delicious flavours you’ve come to love in your favourite guacamole. No matter what you prefer to call it, this fresh and nutritious dish is the perfect addition to any summer celebration.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • Avocados – work on half an avo per guest
  • Fresh coriander
  • Finely chopped tomatoes
  • Jalapeno slices – fresh or pickled (up to you)
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Crushed garlic
  • Sour cream
  • Seed crackers
  • Santa Anna Tortilla chips
  • Hard shell tacos
  • Cocktail wraps
  • Lime/lemon quarters
  • Salt & pepper

Those are the basics to have in place. Now, you can play around with additional ingredients, like:

HOW TO PREP YOUR PLATTER:

  1. Start by preparing all the additional ingredients and placing them in attractive bowls, plates and ramekins. Arrange these on and around the board/s you’re planning to place your avocado slices on.
  2. While we know this is really hard, try your best to wait till about half-an-hour before your party starts to prepare the avocado. This will ensure that they taste and look fresh when your guests arrive.
  3. Cut relatively chunky slices of avocado, about 4 per every half. Arrange slices on your board/s without moving them around to much once placed to avoid any squishing.
  4. Squeeze some lemon/lime juice over to prevent any browning from taking place.
  5. Once guests arrive, you can explain any unusual ingredients and then set them loose to create their own mini salads, nachos, tacos or wraps.

Easy, delicious and unique! What’s not to love?

Christmas Gift Ideas that Won’t Hurt The Earth

Christmas Gift Ideas that Won’t Hurt The Earth

So you’ve spent all month prepping your home for an eco-friendly Christmas. You’ve finally gotten your father-in-law to use the compost bin properly, and, following a tense few days and a stern lecture, your niece has agreed to keep her showers down to seven minutes. Stretching yourself thin to create a festive atmosphere has come at an expense – you’ve run out of time to buy gifts for your family. Don’t fret. Even last minute gifts can be environmentally responsible.

Here is our list of some great gift ideas that will spread the Christmas and eco-friendly cheer:

GIVE IN THE NAME OF A LOVED ONE 

Everyone has a family member that they can’t seem to buy anything for because they appear to have everything. That person is my father. I’ve spent a fortune on festive ties, paperweights, books and crystal decanters only to see them be put in storage. A few years ago, I started donating the money I would’ve spent on neglected cufflinks. My father so appreciated that I was helping those in need in his name that he encouraged I keep doing it.

Animal shelters and halfway homes always fill up this time of year, and I don’t doubt that they’d appreciate any financial assistance to feed and care for those that need them. When you cultivate a generous spirits, especially during a period when it’s better to give than to receive, you set a precedent people can’t but not follow.

 

SPONSOR AN EXPERIENCE 

In all honesty, I like people giving me things as much as the next person but what I’ve noticed about every Christmas is that I amass so many useless things. Between the advent calendars, the Christmas crackers and the stockings we hang on Christmas Eve, I have 5 horrendous plastic horn blowers, a pair of novelty New Years glasses, a bubble machine, streamers, and a handful of other toys and trinkets I loathe having to get rid of. And this is before I’ve even my actual Christmas presents! Circumvent that waste entirely by purchasing tickets to the theatre show instead.

When you sponsor an experience instead of buying a gift, your loved one will forever associate the memory of eating at their favourite restaurant, thanks to a coupon or gift card, with you. It beats them feeling guilty about throwing out the desk fan you got them when they move house.

 

GIVE THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING 

A house without indoor plants is not a house worth living in. Other than improving the quality of your air, and adding a pop of colour to your interior, the benefits of incorporating some foliage into your home are endless.
Get your loved ones anything from a hardy fern tree, or stress-free succulent, to a thirsty bamboo palm. It’ll look pretty, and tending to something to ensure it grows is a great form of therapy.

 

DIY PRESENTS 

Put the pasta and the glue away if you’re not a five-year-old, we’re talking about serious stuff here. People always roll their eyes at homemade presents because they often look and feel like a last-minute cop-out. It doesn’t have to be.

If you’re a whizz in the kitchen, whip up a batch of preserves or fill a few jars of your famous butter cookies. Those good with arts and craft can glue together a scrapbook or hammer together an adorable birdhouse. Use your talents to show your loved ones that you care and they won’t notice that their gift doesn’t come with a receipt.

 

PRO-TIP: RECYCLE WRAPPING PAPER 

Am I the only person who is tired of seeing yucky wrapping paper? There are so many environmentally responsible alternatives that make buying that tacky glossy stuff is unnecessary. I’ve taken to wrapping gifts in sheets of newspaper. What makes it really fun is I’ll always pick sheets from my pile with the most scandalous news headlines and see if anyone notices. If the recipients catch on, it becomes a fun game of who can find the most outrageous ‘Tokoloshe Stole my Husband’ type story. If they don’t, at least I can chuckle to my own private joke. And at the end of all the gift unwrapping – bundle up the newspaper and pop it in the fire for some extra kindling. 

 

We’re a week away from Christmas and the festive cheer is getting even cheerier. If you’ve ever had to wade through busy shopping malls to get last-minute gifts for friends and family, you know how frustrating it can be. What are some of your favourite eco-friendly gift ideas that we can run out and get in time for Santa’s housecall?

 

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4 Simple Ways to Quick Pickling

With summer upon us and the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to make sure that your salad-making game is strong. Fortunately, there are so many exciting seasonal ingredients to pick up from your local farmer’s market or grocery store, that it’s hard not to get creative. But if you want to add some extra creative flair to the mix, there’s nothing like a delicious pickled treat or two to spruce things up. And if you really want to impress? Sourcing those pickles from your very own, homespun pantry.

Yes! DIY quick pickling is possible and far easier than you might think. Before we get into the tips and tricks, however, let’s just cover the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of pickling.

WHAT IS QUICK PICKLING?

As the name suggests, quick pickling is an easy and uncomplicated process that basically involves submerging vegetables in a solution of vinegar, water and salt and storing it in the fridge. Unlike their slightly more complex fermented counterparts, you can enjoy quick pickles within a few days of
refrigeration.

WHY PICKLE?

Well, there could really be any number of reasons why you’d choose to pickle your veggies – for many people, that delicious tangy taste is reason enough already. In more practical terms, however, it’s an excellent way of preserving your favourite seasonal produce while retaining most of their nutritional value, reduces food waste and helps you keep meals interesting year-round.

So, let’s take a look at our four quick pickling tips and an easy recipe to try:

1. THE FRESHER THE VEG, THE BETTER THE PICKLE:

One of the most important things about creating successful pickles, is to use only the freshest, most beautiful specimens from your veggie rack. I
mean, could there be anything worse than sinking your teeth into a bruised dill cucumber when you expected a delectable crunch? So, make sure to employ a rigorous vegetable selection process.

2. BLEND YOUR BEST BRINE

The trickiest part of making your own quick pickles, will probably be getting the brine just right. It may even take a few tries before you get it perfectly to your liking.

If you want to start with a basic guideline, however, it would be wise to start with equal measures of water and vinegar, adding a tablespoon each of pickling salt and sugar. In order to dissolve the latter, you will have to heat the liquid on the stove – but do not bring to the boil. Before pouring the
liquid over your veggies of choice waiting in their pickle jars, just give it a little taste to make sure something’s not way off or overpowering.

3. PLAY WITH SPICES

While you may want to keep things simple with your first attempt at pickling by only using brine, once you’ve gained some confidence you may want to start playing with adding spices to the mix. The spices you choose to use will obviously depend greatly on the vegetable you’re pickling. For instance, cinnamon will complement carrots or pumpkin perfectly, but may not work so well with cucumbers. Instead, you may try adding some ginger and turmeric to your dill cucumbers instead. Once again, it’s really up to what you find tasty and there’s nothing wrong with experimenting until you find something that really works. In fact, it’s encouraged.

4. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR BUBBLES

So, quick pickling is pretty much a fool-proof way of preserving your veggies deliciously and nutritiously. However, they do not last forever and, since there’s no expiry date to work with, you should keep a close eye on any changes that may occur during their sojourn in the fridge. As soon as you see bubbles appearing when you open the jar, you’ve delayed a little long and it’s time to send them to the compost heap or bokashi bin.

QUICK & EASY PICKLED BEETS:

We all love beetroot, right? Well, here’s a quick and easy recipe from Pinch and Swirl to ensure you never run out!

INGREDIENTS:

PREPPING THE BEETS:

In order to get the beets ready for pickling, you will be baking them first. This will ensure that they remain nice and firm, yet tender.

  1. Preheat oven to 190
  2. Place washed beets in a deep baking dish with a lid in a single layer and drizzle olive oil over.
  3. Bake for 60 – 90 minutes.
  4. Let aside to cool down and once cool, peel the baked beets and slice.
  5. Place them into your canning jar/s.

PREPPING THE BRINE:

Because you’re using honey and no sugar or salt, you won’t need to heat up the pickling liquid as there won’t be any granules to dissolve.

  1. So, all you will have to do is whisk the water, ACV and honey together and pour into your pickling jars.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before eating – the longer you wait, the stronger the beets will taste.
  3. Eat within three weeks.

What are your favourite pickling recipes? Please share them with us!

 

 

DIY Floral Smoke Sticks for Fragrant Summer Cleansing

The year is speeding to an end and soon the festive season will be in full swing. While this brings loads of excitement to our lives, it can also make things feel like they’re spinning out of control. Now, more than any other time of the year, we need to protect our energy by setting clear boundaries – especially with those around whom we tend to feel drained. Similarly, since many of our homes might experience an influx of guests, it’s the perfect time to freshen things up and make sure that any stale negativity from the past year isn’t lurking in the corners. This is where smudge sticks can play a role. 

Burning fragrant herbs in the home is an ancient practice present in many cultures to help freshen and uplift spaces. In some cultures it was used purely as a practical means of chasing off unwanted guests of the insect kind, while others took a more spiritual approach, using smoke to help purify or bless spaces and people.

Smudging is one form of smoke cleansing that has gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years. Rooted in Native American customs and cultures, smudging ceremonies are normally performed using a bundle (or ‘stick’) of sacred herbs, of which white sage is the most important and prominent ingredient.

Of course, there is some controversy around the cultural appropriation of this practice and, if it is something you’re interested in doing to help purify or bless yourself or your home, it’s worth doing a bit of research to make sure you’re going about it in the most respectful way possible.

One way of doing this is to keep things earth-friendly by harvesting herbs from your own backyard (or, if you don’t have one, a generous friend or family member). This also adds an element of creativity, as you can make a smudge stick according to your own preferences.

Even though sage is most commonly associated with smoke cleansing, we quite like the idea of doing something a little different and bringing some floral flare to the mix.

Here’s a little recipe to kickstart your DIY Smoke Cleansing experiment:

WHAT YOU NEED:

  1. Freshly-harvested herbs:
  • Lavender (assists with calming and relaxation)
  • Rosemary (assists with gaining clarity and staying alert)
  • Rose (encourages peace and can also aid in rekindling romance)
  • Thyme (assists in renewal of energy and purification)
  1. Natural cotton or string

 

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Start the process by strolling through the garden and gathering your herbs of choice. Use secateurs to cut off a sprig of about 10cm of lavender, rosemary and thyme. To gather rose petals, you will simply need a rose bloom or two for plucking purposes.
  2. Once you’ve gathered a generous bundle of herbs, lay them out on a clean, dry surface. In a similar way to which you’d arrange flowers, start gathering together a handful of herbs and bind them tightly with your cotton or string. You will probably be able to make a few smudge sticks from your collected herbs, so feel free to play around with different combinations.
  3. Now that you have a few smudge sticks gathered and bound, it’s time to hang them out to dry. Depending on how warm and dry the environment is you’ve placed them in, it could take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks to dehydrate them sufficiently. If you’re feeling a bit impatient, you can speed up the process by placing them in the warm drawer of your oven.
  4. When they’re dry enough, it’s burn time! Make sure you light your smoke stick on one end only in a well-ventilated area, far away from any flammable objects. If you want to put it down, place it in a heat and burn proof container, such as glass or ceramic. Once you’re done, douse it with water.

If you want to add any other herbs to the mix, please do some research beforehand. Some plants are toxic when burned, while others may smell unpleasant. Of course, you would also want to pay attention to their properties – if you want to bring a sense of calm to your home, you don’t want to burn herbs with energising properties and vice versa.

 

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