Sunday, 28 September 2014

Our First Square Foot Garden

So I really can't take credit for our square foot husband made the wooden structure himself and lovely took care of all of the plants from seeds. He did a lot of research on when to plant and how many you can plant in each square. Getting 16 different vegetables in a square foot is pretty amazing.

Hubby planted the seeds with the girls in around May - I think he was a month late in the growing season but we still had new growth in September. Around October everything started to go.

It was so satisfying watching your food grow and know exactly where it came from and it was wonderful to offer your guests a salad that is entirely from your own garden! Love it!

Our girls decorated the outside, which promptly washed off with the first rain fall.

First sprouts of life...

Green abundance with everything going strong! 

Starting to see first flowers and edible leaves.

As you can see I've picked all the lettuce leaves. My spinach was a bit disappointing :(
The watermelon is growing well as are all the other vegetables!

Tomatoes in the sunset :)

Pretty moths courting on the butternut squash flower.

Our first beet harvest!

Delicious lettuce - I loved making salads directly from my garden. Amazing feeling to feel self sufficient!

A little medly of some of the vegetables we harvested...

The sugar snap peas were amazing!

The watermelon, and baby watermelon grew so fast.

The jalapeno plant... 

A rainbow of beets ... 

Butternut pumpkin squash... 

Last few days of growth...

My herb garden...
(Flat leaf parsley, mint, basil & parsley)

 The wildflowers I planted from seeds grew amazingly with little effort...

A little Utah jay bird that came to visit...

  The sun setting on the last of our harvest before the weather starts to get cold. 

Some of the recipes I made with my harvest;

Jalapenos = Jalapeno Poppers
Green Tomatoes - Fried Green Tomatoes
Butternut Squash - Thai Red/Yellow Curry with Pumpkin
Carrots = "Chicken" Pot Pie
Butternut Squash Flowers = Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Beets = Golden Beet Hummus
Lettuce = Green Bean, Tomato & Avocado Salad
Sugar Snap Peas = Chilli Jam Stir Fry
Baby Leeks = Potato Leek Soup
Tomatoes = Simple SalsaBruschetta (one of my favourite things on the planet)

Last of the harvest - frozen for a rainy day :)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chilli Cheese Dip

This recipe from Delish Knowledge is so delicious - hubby loved it and he normally hates anything involving nutritional yeast! I couldn't get it as smooth as it looked on the original recipe but it was still yum.

Chilli Cheese Dip


1½ cups cashews, soaked for at least an 1 hour, drained
1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (I used soy)
2 tsp. chili powder
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup minced onion
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 15 oz. cans, black beans
12 oz. fresh salsa


Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
Place the cashews, orange bell pepper, milk, chili powder, and nutritional yeast in a high powered blender (I use my Blend-Tec). Puree until thick and creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
In a large saucepan, add the minced onion, taco seasoning, black beans and fresh salsa over medium heat. Stir constantly until heated through, about 7-8 minutes.
Add in the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
Season to taste with salt/pepper if needed.
Garnish as desired and serve.

Vegan Buffalo Wings

This recipe comes from Vegan Dad's "Ultimate Vegan Hot Wings" although obviously I had to make it gluten free. As with all seitan I've ever made, it's quite heavy and bready. Maybe that's just a gluten free thing, I'm not sure, not having ever tried real seitan. Hubby things he can improve on the recipe - he's a bit more adventurous with the experimentation than I watch this space! Ranch Dressing recipe from Chow Vegan.

Vegan Buffalo Wings

Makes about 30

1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp poultry spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup GF vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup fine corn flake crumbs
1/2 cup GF flour (I used brown rice)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tsp oil
1 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Sauce (heat these ingredients in a saucepan)
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp ketchup


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sided cookie sheet with foil and lightly oil.
Place mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add oil, spice, salt and blitz. Add gluten and process into a smooth dough. Add water gradually process into a smooth paste (you may not need all the want the mixture to be like dough).

Remove dough from food processor and roll into a cylinder about 14" long.
Slice into 1" pieces and roll them into a smaller cylinders. Slice that in half if they are too long, then flatten slightly.

Mix together ground corn flakes, flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
Combine soy milk and vinegar in a separate bowl.
Toss seitan in 2 tsp of oil. Toss seitan in corn flake mixture.
Dip seitan soy milk mixture, then toss in cornflake mixture again. Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 mins, turn over, then bake for another 10 mins.
Coat wings with all but 1/4 cup of the sauce. Bake for 5 mins, then use a spoon to scoop up excess sauce and re-coat the wings. Bake for another 3-5 mins, until bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool 5 mins. Toss in remaining sauce and serve. Serve with vegan ranch dressing.

Vegan Ranch Dressing
Makes a little over 1/3 cup


1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup Vegenaise or other vegan mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion powder
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Chill until ready to use.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Basic Gluten Free Pastry

I changed this recipe from Maggie Beer's Gluten Free Pastry Recipe.

Basic Gluten Free Pastry


1 cup water
2 tspn salt
90g unsalted vegan butter
150g gluten free flour Plus 1/2 cup extra for kneeding
2g xanthan gum
2-3 egg replacers


Preheat oven to 200C/400C\F.
In a heavy based saucepan combine the water, salt and butter.
Bring to a simmer and add the flour and Xanthan gum. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
Lower temperature and continue to cook until pastry comes away from the sides and is well combined. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Whisk the egg replacer to combine and add half the egg mixture slowly, incorporating fully before adding the final half.
If the mixture is a dough texture when you add in the first half, you may not need to rest of the eggs mixture.
Turn out onto a surface on which you have placed a further ½ cup gluten free flour and knead until shiny.
Try to incorporate as little flour as possible so the pastry does not go crumbly.
Chill pastry then using a rolling pin roll the pastry between two pieces of baking paper greased on both sides. Roll to half a centimetre thick and place in pie tins.

Properties: browns beautifully, has a nice crispness and holds in moisture. Has a nice potato undertone which is very pleasant. Has a great shelf life, up to 5 days in fridge without going mouldy.

Note: You could add 2 teaspoons of powder sugar and make a sweet pastry for fruit pies.

Note: Gluten Free flour: Maggie use a mix of blended potato flour, rice flour, and maize flour. Or you can purchase ready made gluten free flour mix from health food shops or supermarkets.

"Chicken" Pot Pie

I got this recipe from a magazine and changed it gluten free and vegan. I used Beyond Meat Faux Chicken Strips and chopped them finely in a food processor but you could easily use tofu too.

"Chicken" Pot Pie


1 lb faux chicken or tofu
1 cup carrot, sliced
1 cup frozen green peas
1⁄2 cup celery, sliced
1⁄3 cup vegan butter
1⁄3 cup onion, chopped
1⁄3 cup gluten free flour (I used brown rice)
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1⁄4 tsp celery seeds
1 3⁄4 cup vegan chicken or vegetable broth
2⁄3 cup non-dairy milk
2x 9 in unbaked pie crust (I used Maggie Beer's Gluten Free Pastry)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. 
Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. 
Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. 
Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. 
Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. 
Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Going Shampoo Free

Should be called Going Shampoo Free - An Experiment In Patience

So everyone has heard about the "no poo" craze and it all makes sound sense (although personally I hate that term cause it sounds like you're not getting enough fiber). Commercial shampoos are full of harmful chemicals that strip the natural oil from your hair and create the need for us to keep shampooing, not to mention the cost to you and the environment with all those chemicals going down the waterways and plastic bottles being discarded! The list of reasons to go "poo" free goes on...

People always used some form of cleansing of their hair but commercial liquid shampoo wasn't really available before the 1930s and people washed their hair with soap once a month!!! Clearly we've gone down a terrible consumer driven path somewhere if we are shampooing every second day! Anyway as a big advocate of DIY and natural holistic remedies I thought I would give this a go. I had a friend (male) who just stopped washing his hair and said his hair was fabulous after 2 weeks. It looked good to me too, I never would've known!

So full disclosure, about 4 months ago I tried it the way he tried it (just nothing and occasional rinsing with water in the shower) and after 6ish weeks I still had greasy hair and I a little discouraged. I have fairly thick wavy hair so from what I had read and been told I had imagined by week 4 that my hair would have re-calibrated and I would have luscious Brave style hair (apart from not being a redhead) so I did what you're not meant to do, I gave up :(

In fairness most people I've read the comments of give up after a few days or a week but having thick wavy hair I only wash my hair twice a week to begin with.

So I think I know where I went wrong... All the experiences I'm reading about used some form of cleansing, just not shampoo. I used nothing.

I have read that most people have success with the baking soda rinse/apple cider vinegar rinse combo but if you scroll down the comments of these blogs you'll find that many people also did not have success with that combo...even worse, they claim it ruined their hair. Something to do with baking soda not being the same PH as your scalp and ripping your hair apart. Call me vain, but that alone scared me into looking for alternatives.

I found a honey "shampoo"/apple cider vinegar rinse combo that worked for Lauren on Empowered Sustenance,  so I thought I would try that. Obviously switching the honey for agave...having a similar PH level. My friend in Japan, Faith, is also trying it with her own herbal concoction which I will steal from her at some point. Faith also looked into buying the JR Liggett Shampoo Bar but a closer inspection of the ingredients shows it's just natural soap. In fact, almost the exact same ingredients I use in my own homemade soaps...any excuse for a plug ;)

So here it shampoo free adventure...take two!

Started; 14th September, 2014 

Me after my last shampoo. 
Was having an ok hair day...for once!

18th September, 2014

So it's been 4 days...
My hair is slightly greasy and I'm wearing it up a lot at work...mainly buns.
It doesn't smell but I'm paranoid it does. Slight amount of small dandruff flakes showing (and sticking to the grease!!!!) but it's because I developed scalp psoriasis after moving to Utah, USA from Sydney, Australia ...I think a combination of hard water and lack of humidity. Seriously it's so dry here I feel like I've gain 10 years if wrinkles in 1 year :(
Another reason I want to try this and really stick to it this time.
I'm hoping once I move somewhere more humid my skin and hair will renew and moisturize magically like sea monkeys!

20th September, 2014

Today I washed my hair for the first time since I went shampoo free. I used a "Honey" Shampoo and ACV rinse recommended on Empowered Sustenance.

"Honey" Shampoo - 1 Tbls Raw Honey (I used raw agave) mixed at a low temperature with 3 Tbls water.
Once mixed well you can add a few drops of carrot oil which is supposed to be great for hair. I didn't use this as I didn't have any. The add a few drops of essential oil if desired. I used Rosemary Essential oil.
Pour over scalp and massage in before rinsing. Then use ACV.

ACV - 1-2Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar mixed into 1/2-1 cup water.
Dip ends of hair in solution, the pour over scalp and let sit in hair for a minute before rinsing out.

Once my hair dried it felt ok. It still was slightly waxy on top and dry at the bottom (Dryness could be the lasting effects of a recent Ombre job though). My hair feels much less greasy than it did before I washed it so that's nice. Before that I hadn't even got it wet. I have a feeling I'll be wearing it up a lot LOL

Before the "Honey" Shampoo/ACV routine

After the "Honey" Shampoo/ACV routine, dry hair

22nd September 2014

I wore my hair out today and it looked ok, I think. To me it looked a bit waxy at the top but I got a few compliments on it so hopefully no one else saw the grease.

24th September 2014

So it's been 10 days already! Yesterday I wore my hair out again and I think it looked fine but today I wore it in a bun cause I felt like it looked greasy. I went to wash it tonight and when I brushed it out (as is the routine of us wavy/curly haired lassies) I could really see how greasy it was at the top so I tried to brush the oil down a bit. I ordered one of those pine wooden brushes too which is supposed to be the shizzit when it comes to "poo" free hair. So I washed it tonight with the agave shampoo and used a little bit of lime essential oil and rinsed with the ACV. Feels a little bit heavy on top and dry on the ends but then it felt like that last time too so I think it takes a few days before it feels normal again.

26th September 2014

12 days in, still feeling a bit greasy despite washing is 2 days ago so I'm wearing it up for a while - I might try using the baking soda solution next time just to change it up a bit!

28th September 2014

Two weeks! Yesterday my hair was feeling very greasy so instead of washing it I had a relaxing bath with Epsom salts, baking soda and tea tree oil and soaked my head in it.

My hair feels a little less greasy but still a little greasy today. Here's some pics before I soaked it...

1st October 2014
17 days - it's feeling a bit greasy so I think I'm going to try washing it with my handmade soap tomorrow - it has the same ingredients as JR Liggett Shampoo Bar anyway! 

3rd October 2014
19 days poo free. Last night I washed my hair with my homemade soap and then added some rosehip oil to the ends after towel drying. It actually dried looking nice but then I slept on the curls and now they look drab! It looks a bit unbrushed but that's because if I brush it I get frizz.

My bamboo brush finally arrived - very exciting!

12th October, 2014
28 days poo free - that's kind of a month right?
So far so good, it's still a bit greasy and I want to give in but I'm determined to get to at least 3 months. I ideally would like to get to 6 months but if there is really no change after 3 months then I might ditch it.
Having said that, I don't think I would go back to commercial shampoo. I think I would still make my own, and still fully intend to make some shampoo bars.
I washed twice since my last entry, once with the "honey" shampoo and once with one my homemade cedar wood soaps. Still using the vinegar solution to rinse.
I felt like after the cedar wood that my psoriasis was much better - I used some cedar wood essential oil on the psoriasis on my ear and it's been healing fast. It was a recommendation from a friend who uses a lot of doTerra oils.
I think it looks a bit oily but doesn't feel it. Feels more waxy and heavy.

19th October 2014
It's been over a month and my "transition period" is still transitioning. Who are these people who had a two week transition period? Do they have thin straight hair compared to my thick wavy hair? I want to know cause I want to give up :(

Today I'm trying something a bit nuts (well nuts to me!) My friend saw something on using rolled oats as a dry shampoo and then avocado as a moisturizing hair masque. I'll keep you updated. My hair has been greasy but I've also not washed it with anything in over a week...out of lack of time/laziness. I wear my hair up at work mostly anyway so it hasn't been an issue.

OK Update on the oatmeal - wasn't for me LOL. It definitely got some of the oil out but it was super messy (I picture anyone walking into my bathroom seeming me naked, crouched down in the bath tub rubbing oatmeal into my hair frantically like a primate). The dry oatmeal got stuck all through my hair and me being the super smart person I am thought, I'll just wash it out. Do not wash it out - comb it out. Once the oatmeal gets wet it's even harder to get out. Reminds me of when I was 11 and my friend and I had heard that egg was good for our hair so used it like shampoo and ended up with scrambled eggs in our hair.
To add insult to injury I didn't have a ripe avocado so I used banana (1 ripe banana mashed up with 1 tsp of agave - wrap hair up in cling wrap and leave for 10 mins before rinsing).

I've gone back to reading some more blogs on people's "no poo" experiences. A few people have talked about using Shampoo Bars instead of the baking soda (which is great cause I made some shampoo bars today and they should be in use within 3 weeks!). Another method that seemed to work for others is co-washing which is just using conditioner on the ends of your hair and rinsing - completely bypassing the whole shampoo step. I've noticed that for the people who went "poo free" through the baking soda method they reported loving it at first but then towards the end found their hair became brittle and unmanageable again. I can't help thinking that maybe the baking soda thing is great for the transitioning period but maybe long term that no washing at all is the answer or maybe just using a natural shampoo bar. I've also just read that you're supposed to used distilled water if you have hard water (which we do) so oops...I'll be off to buy some of that! Deep conditioning with aloe vera gel was mentioned too which is definitely something I would try!

I'm very close to trying the baking soda method - it has definitely worked for some people so giving it a go once might not hurt. Feeling desperate!

My hair felt surprisingly good after I did the baking soda thing. The ends did feel a bit dry but at least it didn't feel waxy or greasy anymore and I felt like I would wear my hair out! I know miracle!

9th November 2014
My shampoo bars were finally ready so I tried one and I love the result. It feels like I shampooed it without the shampoo part! My hair felt a little bit dry after (I used the vinegar rinse as conditioner) but not a sign of grease.

11th November 2014
A few days after the shampoo bar and my hair still felt great and I could wear it down.
It was about day 5 after using the shampoo bar that my hair started to grease up a bit but I'm determined to try and only use it once a week.

19th November 2014

I'm at the end of my shampoo free adventure. And that's not to say I'm giving up...on the contrary...I'm a convert! I made my own shampoo bar that was able to be used from early November and have only had to wash it once a week. I'd like to go longer but at the moment it's getting a little greasy by the 5th day after washing. My husband and friends have been using it too and they are also converted! I don't need conditioner or vinegar anymore because my natural oils are there. I have very thick wavy hair so not need a conditioner of any kind is something I never thought I'd be able to do! So two months after going shampoo free I'm happy and not greasy! I wish I'd done the shampoo bar thing before everything else honestly, it would have been a much faster transition period. My shampoo bar is available here on Etsy but there are loads of them on the market.

If you Google it you'll find many blogs out there about going shampoo free.
Here are a few blogs/online articles I read about going Poo Free (the comments on how other people went is very informative too!);
Crunchy Betty
Empowered Sustenance
Becoming Peculiar
The Hair Pin
Pursuit of Hippieness
Code Red Hat (this one had some great tips - I especially love how she talked about the BS solution needing to be slippery and it may need to be adjusted depending on how hard or soft your water is.)

UPDATE - January 28th 2015

So I did cut off off the mangy blonde parts of my hair because now that it's so healthy and shiny I want to grow it out in it's natural color! I'm still just using my shampoo bar every 7-10 days and that is ALL. Loving how quickly it lathers up in my hair now that it's shorter! So 4.5 months later and I'm still very happy no using shampoo, in fact when the kids shampoo runs out they'll be using the shampoo bar too. And another thing I've noticed with the kids hair (aged 6 & 8), even if I leave it weeks with out shampooing it never gets greasy and still looks amazing. I think that should be proof enough that we don't need shampoo!

New Update - April 11th, 2015

7 months after I started not using shampoo I'm still going strong. I'm using the homemade shampoo bar around once a week which suits me!

Update! - September 2015

Over a year later and I'm still shampoo free and still using my shampoo bar only, no conditioners or products. I usually wash my hair every 10-14 days now which is so easy, it hardly ever gets greasy!

UPDATE - May 2017
Two and a half years after first using my shampoo bar I'm still using it and loving it, in fact it became my best selling soap item! My hair has grown fairly long and is healthy and shiny - although randomly lost it's natural wave when I was pregnant! All I use still is the shampoo bar and some argan oil in the ends.

My hair was getting pretty long so and I was getting some regrowth from pregnancy (more on the post baby experience here)so I decided to chop it off and donate it to charity. Living having 100% natural hair for the first time in many many years!now, no dye! I'm still washing my hair around once a week and sometimes putting some Moroccan oil in the ends but that's the extent of my hair care regime!

The hair dresser I went to even used vegan product and gave me some samples!

Made a DIY Beach Hair Spray and then finished with the Pureology Smooth Perfection to define and get rid of frizz.

UPDATE - September 2017
Over 3 years shampoo free now and still loving it. Using my shampoo bar probably around once a week and using Maple Holistics argan oil in the ends the day I shampoo and whenever it gets frizzy (which is does in 90% Florida weather, trust me!).
Click here for free Maple Holistic samples!