Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade Hair Stengthening/Growth Tonic

Ok, I have to admit, I am obsessed with making my hair grow- I have visions of my hair flowing over my shoulders and being everlastingly full and radiant!  Unfortunately, I have my father's hair- thin and stringy (when it gets too long).  My homemade hair products are wonderful, but none of them are helping with the length or fullness of my hair.  The quality of my hair has always been fine; I even had a fellow student (years ago) ask if she could touch my hair because it is so soft and shiny!  So, I am on a mission to find the perfect blend of hair-nourishing herbs that will make my locks healthy and full.

Bingo!  I found a recipe for a hair tonic with rosemary and stinging nettle that is supposed to stimulate your scalp and actually grow thicker hair.  I took that recipe and added some essential oils to aid in the scalp-stimulating properties of the tonic.

What you need to make your own herbal hair tonic:

1 T dried rosemary
1 T dried stinging nettle
1 c white vinegar
1 c filtered water
5 drops each: lemon and lavender essential oil

  • Put all ingredients (except essential oils) into a small pan.
  • Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to lowest setting and make a strong decoction. (takes about 1 hour)  Add more water if it gets too low!
  • Remove pan from heat and filter out the herbs.
  • Add essential oils when tonic has cooled to about 100 F.
  • Keep in a cool place and shake well before use.
To use:

Use sparingly on your scalp (apply either with a dropper or a small squirt bottle), using 10-15 drops and massaging it in with fingers.  Do NOT rinse.  
Since this has vinegar in it, it will have a slight odor at first, but that will dissipate once the tonic dries.  Use this tonic every-other day.

Enjoy your healthy scalp/hair!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Homemade Dandelion Wine

I love dandelions!  Not only are they bright and yellow (which happens to be my favorite color), but they are full of nutrients and can help you perform a "spring cleaning" on your liver! Dandelions have been used as a detoxifier and blood purifier for centuries. I think dandelions are beautiful herbs, not weeds, and they should be used and revered as such.

 From the Bulk Herb Store catalog:
    " (dandelion) is high in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium... This is the herb for improving      low blood pressure and helping build energy and endurance.  It is also one of the best liver                  cleansers and is therefore great for skin diseases."  

A few days ago, I was amazed at the abundance of dandelions in our yard.  So, I took my "little ones" and filled a sack with about 3 quarts of these lovely yellow flowers.  (Be sure to pluck the flowers in the morning when they first open.)

Then, we made a very strong dandelion infusion; just use equal parts flowers and boiling filtered water.  Let the infusion sit in a large stainless steel pot with a lid for 24-48 hours.  Then, strain the liquid into a fermenting vessel. (Be sure to squeeze all the goodness out of the flowers!) I used a small fermenting crock as my vessel.

To your (3 quarts) dandelion infusion, add:

  • 3/4 c unrefined cane sugar
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • peel of 1 orange (I used a vegetable peeler)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 c starter culture (I used water kefir, but you could also use whey)
Once the ingredients are mixed, cover the fermenting vessel with a cloth secured by a rubber band. Let the mixture sit for a couple of days, until you see signs of fermentation- bubbles!  Be sure to stir at least once a day in the meantime...

When you see bubbles, let the wine ferment for another 2-3 days.  Stir daily.

The dandelion wine is finished!  Bottle this lovely beverage and chill before enjoying a glass.  And, although it is called "wine", dandelion wine is safe for children to drink, as long as it doesn't sit around too long!  

To me, dandelion wine tastes a lot like European Orangina- So enjoy the benefits of dandelion in this tasty, citrus-y beverage!  And never take the dandelion for granted again ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Homemade Cream Conditioner and Liquid, Hot Process Shampoo

The Shampoo:

Although I love my henna shampoo bar, I was curious about making more liquid shampoo- not from an already-made soap like Dr Bronners, but from scratch.  I have made liquid soap before (click here for the post), but I wanted to use oils that could be used for moisturizing shampoo and infuse it with essential oils that would promote healthy hair.  Since my hair is thin, I chose a juniper berry/spearmint scent for the shampoo.  Juniper berry essential oil is one of the essential oils that actually promotes new hair growth :)  I just like the smell of spearmint!  I also didn't want to make the recipe too complex or I would only make it once... so, I chose oils that would be easy to find and kept the list at a minimum.

Here's my recipe for hot process shampoo (which could also be used as body wash!):

17.5 oz castor oil
17.5 oz coconut oil
22.5 oz sunflower oil

24 fl oz distilled water
12.8 oz KOH (potassium hydroxide)

1 gallon distilled water for dilution (yes, this make a LOT of shampoo)

1-2 oz essential oils (optional)- I used a 60/40 mixture of spearmint/juniper berry

I followed the instructions (with pictures) found on these Instructables directions :)  This is the best tutorial I have found regarding liquid soap.  Very easy and concise!   Although my cook time differed from the Instructables author, the process is the same.

A few notes:

  • Do not worry if you don't see every stage of liquid soap!  My soap passed by the "mashed potato" stage so quickly I didn't even see it...
  • I ended up cooking my soap for 7 hours before I felt it was clear enough.  
  • I did NOT add borax at the end because I was at a 3% superfat in my recipe- no excess lye needed to be neutralized in the finished product!

The Cream Conditioner:

I used to use a vinegar rinse as a conditioner, but I was never very fond of the smell or the difficulty with getting it through all of my hair.  It was also very cold when applying in the winter months- yikes!

I wanted to continue with the healthy/new hair growth theme of my shampoo, so I concocted a mixture of essential oils for that purpose.  Some essential oils you may want to try include:  ylang ylang, clary sage, lemon, rosemary, basil, cedarwood, cypress, peppermint, or a mixture.  Mine had a little bit of everything in it, and it turned out very sweet and herbal!

Here is the recipe that I found on

374 g distilled water
2 g liquid silk
22 g glycerin
27 g emulsifier
13 g jojoba oil
4 g sweet almond oil
4 g essential oils
( I did NOT add the preservative)

Heat all the ingredients (except essential oils) until solids have dissolved.
Hold that temp for 10 minutes.
Cool to 140 degrees before adding essential oils.

A couple notes:

  • I had to use my stick blender to get the fixed oils to incorporate completely.  Just be careful while the mixture is hot!
  • pour into a pump bottle immediately after adding the essential oils, as this will be hard to do once the conditioner is completely cooled.

The results:

I am very pleased with this shampoo/conditioner combo!!  Even my husband (who doesn't always like my concoctions) praised these products!!  Andy has hair past his shoulders and always has a hard time brushing his hair through when it's wet- with this combo, his hair is knot-free and shiny :)  I've recently had a major hair cut, and although I do not need detangling, my hair is soft and full of body.

Although the process of making this shampoo is a bit more time-consuming than the henna shampoo bar, it is well worth the effort!  And, since this recipe makes so much, you only have to make it every few months!  As far as the conditioner goes, I cannot think of an easier way to make anyone's hair soft and shiny- and no vinegar-y smell in your shower!  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Homemade, Fermented Mango-Peach Salsa

It is such a beautiful spring day!  Yes, I think spring is finally here in the mountains of Colorado- at least I hope so... :)
To celebrate warmer weather and greener things to come, I have made a delicious fermented treat- mango-peach salsa.  My youngest son LOVES this salsa, but mangoes are not a regular crop here- so I was so excited to find some organic mangoes in our local King Soopers.  If you've never had mangoes before, they compliment peaches so well!  Mangoes have a tropical, tangy flavor- sweet, but not pineapple sweet.  And, the color of the fruit is amazing- anywhere from yellow to dark orange. This recipe makes a colorful, happy salsa that tastes as good as it looks!

Here's what you'll need for your own salsa:

1 cup peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
2 med. tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 c red onion
3/8 cup citrus juice (lemon, lime or grapefruit)
5 mint leaves, chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
1 t red pepper flakes
1/8 t cayenne pepper (optional)
1 t sea salt

Mix all ingredients together and press into a quart canning jar.  Cap tightly for 3-5 days, then transfer to cold storage.  That's it!

The mangoes and peaches blend nicely!

What a colorful salsa!  And, so yummy!

The finished product.  This won't last long...

Enjoy a little bit of summer starting now!

This post was inspired by this recipe on, a wonderful place for all things fermented!  (No, I am not getting paid to say that :))

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homemade Orange-Ginger Carrot Kvass

All mixed up and ready to ferment!
I love beets, but I hate beet kvass.  There's no way to sugar coat it... I think it is too salty and tastes like dirt.  Period.  If you're like me, you love fermented drinks, but beet kvass is NOT on the menu. So, I discovered this recipe on the Cultures for Health  website and convinced myself to try kvass again... fingers crossed.

To make this beverage, you will need:

  • 6 carrots, sliced into thin coins
  • 2 T fresh ginger, chopped
  • 6 large strips orange zest (peel with potato peeler)
  • 4 t sea salt
  • About 1/2 gallon filtered, non-chlorinated water

I noticed bubbles after only 24 hours.

  • Place all ingredients in large glass container and stir to combine.  
  • Cover with a secured cloth and let ferment for 3-5 days.
  • Strain off liquid and bottle*- you can add a pinch of sweetener for added carbonation.
  • If doing a second ferment, let your sealed bottles sit on the counter for an additional 1-3 days.
  • Check for carbonation daily and move to cold storage before drinking.

Bottling day!  I added about 1 t honey per bottle for added carbonation.

*To make a second, weaker batch, leave 1 cup of liquid in your fermentation vessel with the remaining carrots, ginger and orange peel and re-fill with 1/2 gallon filtered water.  Leave to ferment for 3-5 days before bottling.  

I have to admit, this kvass is still salty.  It's not as "earthy" as the beet kvass, and I can drink it without making an "eww" face- but, I like bread kvass much better.  Experiement for yourself... which kvass is your favorite?  Whichever one you prefer, you are doing your tummy a favor by drinking this probiotic-rich beverage!  Enjoy!

My carrot kvass, ready for a second ferment!

Homemade, Traditional Rye Bread Kvass

Bread kvass has been a traditional drink in Eastern Europe for centuries.  The drink became popular in the XVI century but was around long before then; some say it has its roots in  IXth century Russia. Peasants and aristocrats alike drank this fermented beverage or made a soup with kvass as its base. Traditional kvass is made from dark rye bread, natural sourdough cultures and honey to sweeten. The word "kvass" comes from the Russian word for "leaven".

Just like many traditional drinks, commercial, high production versions are out there... unfortunately, when some former Soviet countries gained their freedom, Coca-cola and Pepsi entered the markets and made their own faux-kvass.   But, traditional kvass (or "gira"- with a hard "g"- in Lithuania) is still a popular drink in Eastern Europe and is making a comeback in many countries.
For more information on kvass, I recommend this website, written by a native Lithuanian :)

Here is my version of this bubbly, rich traditional drink:

1, 1 lb loaf dark/black rye bread (any loaf will do, but they traditionally used sourdough)
about one gallon filtered, non-chlorinated water
1/2 c organic sugar
4 T raw honey
1 T sourdough starter
mint sprigs, lemon slices, berries, or apples (optional- to taste)
1 raisin per bottle

I used black forest rye bread.  Dry it out until it is very crispy.
  • Slice bread into 1/2" slices (traditional kvass is made from stale bread) and dry out in the oven. I put my slices in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes, until the bread breaks like a cracker.
  • When the bread is finished, bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat.
  • Break up the bread with your hand and drop the pieces into the hot water. Let it steep, covered, for at least 4 hours to overnight (I let mine sit for 9 hours).
  • When done steeping, strain off the rye water into a fermenting crock or large glass container. Discard the soggy bread (squeeze bread gently in a cheesecloth to get as much of the liquid as possible).
  • To your rye water, add the sweeteners, fruit (if used) and sourdough starter (it does not have to be rye). Stir until combined and leave in a warm place, covered with cloth, for about 12 hours.
  • Check for bubbles after 12 hours and scoop off any foam that rises.  Wait another 12-24 hours before bottling. (if more foam rises, just scoop off before bottling)
  • You can add a raisin per bottle to help check the carbonation before drinking.  Place bottles in cold storage for 3 days to one month. 
Break the bread before adding it to very hot water.
Strain the soggy bread in cheese cloth after at least 4 hours.
The sourdough starter is beginning to consume the sugars!
Enjoy this beverage chilled, with a meal.  The natural probiotics it contains help with digestion, and the drink provides high levels of vitamin B.  It is also said to help with detox and accelerated healing.
Enjoy your traditional kvass!

Although the kvass seems a bit cloudy, the yeast will eventually drop out.  I made 5-16oz bottles from one loaf of bread!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Homemade, Cultured Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is amazing and perfect for those of you on the GAPS Diet!  Just as Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends in her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome,  this soup is enhanced with probiotic food. Cultured cream is not only good for your digestive health, but it gives this soup an added richness.  Make this soup with homemade chicken broth and it's a perfect cold-weather meal, chock-full of nutrition!

I found some yummy organic butternut squash at my local grocery yesterday- on sale!  And since soup/stew is one of my favorite wintertime (or anytime) foods, I knew just what to do with it :)

Butter and season the squash before roasting.

To bring out the flavor of butternut squash, what better way to cook it than roasting it?  Before putting your soup together, this is what you need to do:
1. Cut a butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Discard seeds.
2. Place, open side up, onto baking sheet and smear with butter (about 1/2 T per half)
3. Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Roast on 425 F for about an hour, until the skin is blistered and the open side is browned.

The squash browned nicely!

To make the soup, you will need:
1 butternut squash, roasted (directions above)
1 T butter, or ghee
1/2 granny smith apple,cut in small cubes
1/4 onion, minced
2 1/2 c homemade chicken stock
a large dollop cultured cream for each bowl
salt and pepper

Once the squash is roasted, set it aside to cool somewhat.  Melt 1 T butter in a heavy pan and sauté  the apple and onion until soft.  Scoop out meat from squash skins and add this to the apple/onion mixture.  Add in your homemade chicken stock and stir to combine.  Heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to your liking.  Using a stick blender, purée soup in the cooking pot until creamy.

Saute the apple and onion in butter or ghee.

Mix in the homemade chicken stock and roasted squash.

When the soup is done, let it cool to at least 117 F.  You don't want to kill all the good probiotics in your cultured cream.  Serve the soup with a dollop of cultured cream in each bowl.

The perfect cold-weather soup!

This soup was meant for a cold winter day!  Enjoy!