Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baba Ghanoush

. . .or baba ganoush or bābā ghanūj or baba ganush or baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug. Spell it how you like, we are still talking about the same wonderfully smoky, nutty, citrus-y, garlic-y, spicy Middle Eastern appetizer. 

2 large eggplants
4 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup tahini
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup washed cilantro leaves

 Preheat the oven to 375 F 

Wash eggplants and puncture skins several times with a fork or knife. Carefully char eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. Turn frequently and cook until the eggplants are uniformly blackened. If you don't have a gas range you can cook them directly under the broiler or grill them. This step is important though, as it gives the baba ganoush its deep smoky flavor.

Place the eggplants and garlic cloves on an ungreased baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until the eggplants are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let cool.

Cut off the stem ends and peel off the skins. After roasting, the eggplant skin should be able to pull off easily. Puree the eggplant pulp, roasted garlic, and tahini in a blender or food processor. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, and cilantro. Puree until smooth. 
Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Serve drizzled with olive oil, and a sprinkling of paprika and cilantro. I highly recommend making a batch of homemade sesameand sea salt crackers to go with this. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Easy Natural Lotion Bar Recipe

Here's a recipe I came up with for a solid lotion bar. At work I operate an offset press and at school I do letterpress printing so I end up scrubbing ink and grease off my hands several times everyday. In the winter this means my hands get seriously dry and irritated so I wanted to make a balm that would be ultra protective, healing, and fit in my apron pocket. This solid bar made with simple but nourishing ingredients is the perfect antidote to weather that causes buildings to freeze on the outside while still burning on the inside:

Abandoned warehouse fire in Chicago

Solid Lotion Bar Recipe:

1 ounce beeswax*
2 tablespoons coconut oil 
12 cocoa butter wafers
3 tablespoons olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or jojoba oil, whatever makes you happy.
2 tablespoons shea butter 
30 drops vitamin E oil
essential oil of your choice (I used 20 drops lavender and 10 drops patchouli)

*I estimated the size of my chunk of beeswax, you may need to add more if your bar isn't as firm as you would like. Alternatively, if you would prefer a softer balm just use less beeswax and store in a jar.

1. Using a double boiler (I just fit a ceramic bowl over a saucepan of water) begin melting the beeswax as it takes the longest to melt.

2. Once the beeswax is mostly melted add the coconut oil, cocoa butter, and olive/almond/avocado/jojoba oil and allow to completely melt.

3. At this point add the shea butter and stir until melted (you don't want to heat shea butter too much because it will turn grainy when it cools). Promptly remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes without allowing the mixture to solidify. 

4. Quickly stir in the vitamin E oil and essential oils and blend well. Pour into shallow tins or decorative soap molds, or something else (a muffin tin?) that has a shape you like. 

5. Cover the tins/molds and let cool until they are hard enough to use. If you are impatient just pop them in the fridge or leave them out on the front porch to hurry them along. 

6. Carefully coax the bars out of their molds and enjoy! The lotion absorbs nicely into the skin and a little bit goes a long way. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Coconut Curry Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup

While visiting home for the holidays I found myself rifling through my mom's stash of recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. With its simple and nourishing ingredients, gorgeous color palate, and balance of sweet and spicy flavors this soup caught my eye. I decided to jot it down thinking it will come in handy on a cold, Midwest winter night. I haven't yet been back for 48 hours, and already tonight was such a night. 

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder (I used a hot one)

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 quart low sodium veggie broth

4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

1 can light coconut milk

1 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro leaves

ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and bell pepper; cook until tender. Stir in curry powder, cumin, and salt, cook until the spices are fragrant (about 2 minutes).

Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Remove 1 cup of potatoes, mash with a fork and return to pot. Boil gently for 5 minutes to allow soup to thicken slightly. Stir in the chickpeas and coconut milk and heat until warm. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro leaves and black pepper to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your vegetable broth, you may want to add a bit more salt. Serve with a garnish of fresh cilantro.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sage and Cedar Milled Soap

In ancient Arabia, sage was associated with longevity and increasing mental capacity. Native Americans made a salve with sage to heal skin sores and in the 19th century it was used to cure warts. The list of its historical uses ranges from treating epilepsy to measles to worms. Today it is still added to soaps, shampoos, ointments and other cosmetics to treat dandruff, varicose veins, acne, athlete's foot, eczema and psoriasis. The volatile oils in the sage leaf have antiseptic and astringent properties and can be used to dry up perspiration.
Salvia officinalis

 Cedar wood essential oil derived from the Red Cedar has a myriad of therapeutic properties both internally and externally. It is an anti-seborrhoeic (controls oily secretion of sweat glands) antiseptic (fights bacterial infection), antispasmodic (relieves muscle spasms and cramps), astringent (contracts organic tissue), diuretic (produce urine and remove water from the body), emmenagogue (induces and regulates menstruation), expectorant (helps expel mucus from the lungs), fungicide (fights fungal infection), and a sedative. Like sage, it can be used as an insect repellent, making this soap perfect for hiking and camping. Its scent is used in aromatherapy to sooth and balance and is said to comfort and build courage in difficult situations. Used regularly, it promotes positive thinking and emotional balance. All in all, it's pretty kick ass but keep in mind that it can cause skin irritations if applied at a high concentration and should not be used by pregnant women.
Juniperus virginiana

Sage and Cedar Milled Soap
2 lbs of basic soap from my Hand Milled Soap Recipe (prepared in advance)
5 tablespoons rubbed sage
2 teaspoons cedarwood essential oil

Step 1
Grate and melt soap according to directions in my Hand Milled Soap Recipe.

Step 2
 When the soap is melted, remove from heat and thoroughly stir in the sage and essential oil.

Step 3
Pour soap into final molds and leave undisturbed in a warm place for a few days, until the soap is firm enough to hold its shape outside the mold. At this point, remove the soap from the final mold, cut into bars if desired and allow to cure indoors for about 3 to 4 weeks. The longer you allow the bars to cure, the harder they will become as moisture evaporates out of the soap. The sage in this soap gives it a lovely speckled dark green color.