New Year, New You #2: The Great Pantry Toss

So, here is installment number two of my “New Year, New You” journey.  If you missed number one you can find it here.

The very first change I made had to do with food.  I decided that it would be easier to eat better if I didn’t have stuff around I was trying not to eat.  Thus began the Great Pantry Toss.  If pantry cleaning was an Olympic sport, I would be wearing the gold medal!

I started with simply getting rid of everything that was out of date (in the pantry) or unrecognizable (in the freezer).  I found more than a few mystery packages in the freezer.  You know, all those things you didn’t want to waste 5 seconds labeling because you know exactly what it is?  Because you know, that’s 5 whole seconds of your life you’ll never get back!  Then you spend an hour letting it defrost enough to be able to tell what it is, and it’s not what you thought it was so you toss it back in the freezer, again without labeling, because you’re not gonna forget what it is now after all of that!  So now you have all those sad, lonely, unlabeled surprise packages being tossed around the deep freeze as you search for something that is labeled to feed the hungry hoards.  I am happy to report that the sad, lonely, unlabeled surprise package population of my freezer is now a big fat zero.  Yeah me!  And, in an effort to maintain population control I even bought some cute little freezer labels and put them in a convenient place in my kitchen so I’ll actually use them.  I am also happy to report that all of the stray Y2K supplies that I found while spelunking in my panty met a similar fate.  Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking; Spam?  Does anyone really eat that?

As I said earlier, one of my goals this year is to eat healthier.  I’m not talking about going on a diet and I’m not talking about some hard to find, esoteric “health food”.  I’m simply talking about eating more in line with what my body was created to eat.  So I’m going to be focusing on unprocessed (or at least less processed), organic (where possible), whole foods.  I am giving myself much grace in this process, because it is a process.  Will I ever eat 100% unprocessed, organic, whole foods?  I really don’t know.  But if I don’t, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  What ever changes I do make will be positive and I will celebrate those changes no matter how small.

Ok, back to the pantry.  At the top of the 10 Most Not Wanted list was high fructose corn syrup.  As I began reading labels I was both shocked and amazed at everything that had HFCS in it.  I gotta tell you, reading labels ain’t for wimps!  Some things were pretty obvious like pancake syrup and cold cereal.  Some things surprised me, like “pure” vanilla extract and Lipton onion soup mix.  Seriously?  Onion soup mix?  So I made a decree that henceforth HFCS would no longer find respite in my dwelling place.  I made similar decrees about artificial sweeteners and MSG.  And loudly proclaiming things like, “Off with their heads”, they were unceremoniously tossed across the kitchen into the trash.

To be totally honest with you, though, I didn’t toss everything that should have been tossed.  And I’m ok with that for now.  There is grace in the process.  Some things were purchased by or for my teenagers and I’m not going to toss their stuff.  We have had some discussions about things I don’t want them to bring home anymore though. J  There are some other things that I will not purchase again once they are gone and others that will be phased out as I find healthier alternatives.  I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for about a year now, so the “pure” vanilla extract with high fructose corn syrup did get tossed! 🙂

Next time I’ll talk about #2 on the 10 Most Not Wanted list.  Until then, why don’t you share the weirdest thing you’ve ever found that had HFCS in it?

Super Easy Sugar Body Scrub

What girl doesn’t like a little bit of pampering now and then?  I love giving myself a pedicure, but I hate the prices for the stuff!  My sister made some sugar scrub for gifts for Christmas and I decided that I wanted to give that a try.  The recipe is super easy and requires just 2 or 3 ingredients.  And it’s a great use for all that white sugar that I don’t want to eat but don’t want to throw away!  (Find out more about all that white sugar here.)  I whipped up a batch in about 5 minutes.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive or coconut oil

15-20 drops essential oil (optional)

All you need for sugar scrub

 I used expeller pressed coconut oil because it doesn’t have any scent.  If you want it to smell like coconut use the extra virgin coconut oil.  I chose to use a mixture of lavender and tea tree essential oils.  They are both said to have antibacterial properties and that’s never bad.  And they smell good too! You put them all in a bowl and mix well.  I used a fork to cut the oil into the sugar.  

  

Keep mixing until the essential oil is well distributed.  Should look a lot like this.
 

Well mixed

 Then all you have to do is pack it into jars or other containers.  I used these cute little 1/2 pint canning jars that I found.

Isn’t the jar cute?

 Then I added a pretty ribbon and a label and, voila!  5 minute sugar scrub. 

I love ribbons too!

To use this scrub just dip out a teaspoon or so with your fingers and scrub, rinse, and then dry.  This would be a perfect gift for pretty much any occasion, Christmas, birthdays, new moms.  It’s easy to customize-just pick out your favorite smell, and super easy to package.  The best part is, it’s less expensive that what you would find at the store and it doesn’t have all those chemicals and dyes!  Give some a try and then come back and let me know what you think.  Now if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go scrub my feet. 🙂

This post was shared at Homestead Barn Hop Monday Mania and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Ode to Pizza Crust

At my house, we love pizza.  I mean, we LOVE pizza.  And the best pizza is always homemade.  That way you have the perfect thickness of crust, the exact amount of sauce, and the perfect combination of toppings.  I even have individual deep dish pans and three different sizes of pizza pans.  Did I mention that we LOVE pizza?

A size for any appetite!

Over the years I have tried a LOT of different pizza crust recipes.  The sourdough crust is good, but I have found the hands down, go-to pizza crust.  And it’s not even a crust recipe.  It’s a bread recipe.  Shocking.  I know, right?  Who uses a bread recipe for pizza crust?  Well, uuhhmm, I do…and it makes the most amazing pizza crust you’ve ever eaten.  It’s a recipe that I got a few years ago from my sister.  In the beginning, I made bread with it (like I was supposed to), and then I got a little crazy and I made some bread sticks to go with spaghetti one night.  Then I had the brilliant idea (yes I did say brilliant, because that’s what it was; brilliant) to make pizza crust out of it.  It was love at first bite.  I’ve never looked at another pizza crust the same way again.  I have gone so far as to make the pizza crust in the mini pans and freeze it so that we can have pizza whenever we want without having to wait for the dough to rise.  I have even, at times, used half the dough for a free form loaf of bread and the other half for pizza crust.  All at the same time.  What can I say, I live on the edge.

So in an effort to spread the love, I am about to share with you the Best. Pizza. Crust.  Ever.  (It’s really good for bread too.  :))

Italian Herb and Cheese Bread Recipe (AKA The Best. Pizza. Crust. Ever.)

1 Tbsp yeast

2 c. warm water

2 Tbsp dehydrated sugar cane juice, Sucanat, or Rapadura

1/4 c. olive oil

1 Tbsp sea salt

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 c. romano cheese, grated

5-7 c. flour of your choice

Put water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve.  Add all the other ingredients except flour and combine thoroughly.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.  Continue adding flour a cup at a time until dough becomes shaggy and leaves the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

Clean out mixing bowl and oil with olive oil.  Place dough in bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  After dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured board.

For Crust:

Cut off a portion of the dough and roll it to fit your pizza pan.  You can also make a freeform crust and bake it on a cookie sheet.  How much dough you need will depend entirely on how big your pans are and how thick you like your crust.  Heat your oven to 450 F.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in the oven before heating and let preheat for at least 20 minutes.  While your oven heats, get out your pizza ingredients (or not if you are going to be freezing them :)).

When your oven is heated up, re-roll or re-press the dough to fit the pans.  It tends to shrink a little.  Use a fork to prick holes all over so that the dough doesn’t puff up.  Place in oven.  The crusts need to bake for about 15 minutes.  I like to take them out after 7ish minutes and remove them from the pans and put them back in directly on the pizza stone.  That makes the bottom crust crisper.  After 15 minutes remove them from the oven and top with your favorite fixins.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned to your liking.  Sit back, relax, and receive the praises from your family for making them The. Best. Pizza. Ever!

Uuuuummmm, can you smell it?

And if you want to actually make bread with it, here’s what you do:

After the first rise, divide dough in half and form into two loaves.  This works equally will with loaf pans, round free form loaves, or french style loaves.  I have made four thinner baguette style loaves for brushetta or toasted rounds.  Let the loaves rise 1/2 hour or until doubled again.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tbsp water beaten together) and sprinkle with a little romano cheese.  This isn’t necessary, but it gives the loaves a pretty color.  Slash the loaves.  If using loaf pans, bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.  If free form or french style loaves, bake at 450 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  For an artisan crispy crust, throw a cup of hot water into a heated pan in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in.  This bread is good anyway you want to eat it:  still warm from the oven, toasted, cold.  I’ve even made croutons out of it for salads.

So go whip up a batch and let me know your favorite way to eat it!

I shared this at Fight Back Fridays and