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Archive for recipe

Make It Monday: Seeing Green

I am slowly getting back into the habit of blogging again after a crazy, busy summer.  And I thought it might be fun to share some DIY beauty recipes once a week.

To start off the series, I was inspired by Olivia at The Unknown Beauty Blog, who, in turn, was inspired by Lisa Lise at Natural Skin Care.  Inspired by what, you may ask?

By blue-green algae.  Cyanobacteria.  Spirulina.  Gorgeous stuff.

Spiralina growing in the clear, clean waters off the coast of Australia

Spirulina growing in the clear, clean waters off the coast of Australia. Photo from Super Greens Online.

Spirulina was grown by the Aztecs, dried into cakes and used as a travel food.  It is high in protein as well as B vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. Since it is so easy to grow– even in space, both NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have plans to use spirulina as a nutrient source for long space missions.

I have been known to take a few tablets when the days are long and the junk food is calling.  I think it helps my energy levels so I can keep going even when I want to pack it in.

So when I read the post, “It’s so easy feeling green with spirulina” on The Unknown Beauty Blog, I knew I had to try it!

The Spirulina mask is very easy to make.  Just take spirulina power — or if you have tablets, crush them into powder — then add water and smear on your face.

Crushed spirulina tablets

Crushed spirulina tablets

It goes on very dark and is a gorgeous deep teal color.  My husband was mortified.

Looks like I missed a spot on my nose!

Looks like I missed a spot on my nose! I can’t smile because it dried so tight!

The mask dried into a firm film, so I took Olivia’s advice and rinsed it off in the shower. It rinsed off easily and didn’t stain anything.  I had expected such a tight, dry mask to leave my face tight and dry, but my skin was soft and hydrated and glowing.

LOVE at first smear!

Since then, I have tried the mask with:

  • water and smidge of honey — my favorite – leaves my skin super soft.
  •  water and a drop of grapeseed oil — very nice.
  •  water and a couple drops of lavender essential oil — smells heavenly!

If you haven’t tried putting blue-green algae on your face, you are missing out!  But maybe you should try it when your significant others are not around unless they are of stout heart and not easily scared…

When the spouse is away….

I shall have a spa day!


It has been ages since I had a whole day off all by myself!  Hubby is in Tucson at a meeting, and I had a surprise cancellation.  Woo hoo!

My spa day actually started yesterday evening with an hour-long massage from Nell at Spa 33, followed by a half hour in the sauna.  Then I had a spa dinner of stir-fry over quinoa and read magazines with the cats.  Heaven!

This morning I got up at my usual time and slathered my hair with a mixture of coconut oil and camellia oil (available on Amazon and at Asian groceries) — and covered it with a plastic bag.  Then I went for my walk.  You would never know that my hair was getting beautified underneath my walking hat!


Doing the hot oil treatment and getting fit, too!

Having the kitchen to myself for a few days seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new diet.  I saw this book at the library and could not resist the title: Happy Hormones, Slim Belly: Over 40? Lose 7 lbs the First Week, and then 2 lbs. Weekly – Guaranteed. by Jorge Cruise.  The premise, in a nutshell, is that women start craving sugar (meaning sugar in a global sense — everything that breaks down into sugars in the digestive system, so sugars, fruit, carbs, etc.) to help boost their serotonin levels which are going haywire during peri-menopause. The result is weight gain and difficulty sticking to diets which make us miserable.  Jorge’s answer: what he calls carb-cycling.  It sounds like a modified marriage of the Atkins Diet and the Fast Diet — 2 days a week, you avoid all “sugars” (eating as much meat, dairy and vegetables as you want) and then the other 5 days you eat a sensible Mediterranean diet.

My hormones certainly are going haywire… and my weight is currently plateaued at 20lbs more than what the Dr. considers healthy…

So I’m on the second day of the Diet which has 2 “Slim Days” and 5 “Happy Days”  Today is a “Slim Day” — and it’s going well.  I have some fruit cravings, but have almonds instead. And the avocado with lunch really helped fill me up.

Tomorrow I get to have tortillas again!  It seems fairly easy to work around the spouse.  He will be happy with the increase in bacon consumption… All I really have to do is not eat the carbs on my slim days, but in practice, I’m not sure I can watch my husband eat bread without having some myself….

I am dubious about the losing 7 lbs in one week part…. and I’m pretty sure the guarantee won’t apply to me since it was a library book… but we’ll see how it goes.

So, back to the spa part….

I made a simple scrub by adding some Hawaiian red salt to Alba’s Coconut Milk Facial Wash.



Ingredients: Aqua (Water), C14-22 Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract*, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil*, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Panthenol, Polysorbate 60, Potassium Hydroxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Alcohol*, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Phenoxyethanol , Coumarin, Fragrance (Parfum) * Certified Organic Ingredient

Then followed that with the Honey Girl Organics Rejuvenating Mask (which although is clay-based, has enough oils and honey that it is actually not drying at all)


Ingredients: Raw Pupukea Honey, French green clay, organic diatomaceous earth, Hawaiian blue green algae, Royal Jelly, propolis.

Then washed the oil out of my hair with Whole Foods 365 Lavender Shampoo — which has no sulfates or other nasty stuff. It left my hair soft and clean, but not squeaky and stripped.  This was one of the freebies I got from the Whole Foods Blogger event last month.

365 Shampoo for dry and normal hair "lavender blend": water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium cocoamphacetate, wheat germ amidopropyl, betaine, sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, glycerine, citric acid, dehydroacetic acid, burdock root extract, panthenol, vitamin E, hydrolyzed soy protein, rosemary, lavender, tangerine

365 Shampoo for dry and normal hair “lavender blend”: water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium cocoamphacetate, wheat germ amidopropyl, betaine, sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, glycerine, citric acid, dehydroacetic acid, burdock root extract, panthenol, vitamin E, hydrolyzed soy protein, rosemary, lavender, tangerine

I also tried the Whole Foods 365 French Milled Organic Lavender Soap (also a sample freebie from the Blogger event) — and it was delightful!  Nice lather, and a fresh lavender scent. Definitely a keeper!

Wholefoods_LavenderSoapAlas, being at home is not the same as being at The Golden Door, so there were still chores to be done.

But my hair and skin feel fantastic, and after a bowl of hearty soup, there is a Disney Princess movie marathon (on the couch with the cats in a pile) on the agenda…

I feel ready to face the next 5 weeks (without a day off)!

Natasha’s Thai-Inspired Spa Chicken Vegetable Soup

In a soup pot:

1 tbl coconut oil
1 chicken breast, chopped
1 tbl (or so) of fresh chopped garlic
1 tbl chopped ginger (I like the ginger cubes that I found at our local Asian market)

Then add:
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbl chopped ginger (I like the ginger cubes that I found at our local Asian market)
1/2 lemon, sliced
1 cup frozen spinach
1/2 yellow squash, chopped
2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 celery stick, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup snow peas or sugar snap peas

Sriracha sauce to taste





X-Mas Giveaway Winner! And KIOSB: Show and Tell

My Christmas giveaway ended last night and thanks to Rafflecopter for doing all the work of taking submissions and picking the winner.

Monica from the delightful blog, Pear Shaped Gal and my “neighbor” from the other side of San Diego is the lucky winner of my Christmas goodie bag.

Congratulations, Monica!


The Kickin’ It Old Skool Blogathon challenge for today is Show and Tell. I am finished with the lampshade (and you saw that already) and am not in the middle of any other art projects at the moment.  Because it is Christmas baking season, I am in the midst of a baking marathon… I made the dough yesterday and let it rest in the fridge overnight, then earlier this afternoon I formed the loaves and they are in a cold oven still rising right now.  Soon I will bake them until golden and then wrap them up for all the folks on my list… or at least some of the folks on my list.  I can only do 2 large loaves and 6 mini-loaves at a time because 1)I only have that many pans, and 2) my oven can’t fit much more than that. So this is actually the second good batch and there will be a third batch to be baked on Thursday.

Eight loaves a rising...

Eight loaves a rising…

In case you missed last year’s recipe post, I’ll post the recipe again… it has probably morphed a little since last year…

Natasha’s Czech-Inspired Christmas Bread

1/2 cup bread flour
1 tbl active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk

Mix those ingredients together and let rest for an hour or until bubbly and rising.

Add:2 cups softened butter, unsalted
6 golden eggs
3 tbl sugar
1.5 tsp salt
3-5 cups of flour — or until dough is pliable and glorious.

Let rise in refrigerator for 12-48 hours.

Manipulate dough while still cold.

Roll out a rectangle and spread almond paste or meal, golden raisins and apricot bits.  Roll a la cinnamon roll. Pinch ends and place in baking pan.  Allow to rise double (this can take up to 5 or more hours if the house is cool).  Bake at 325F for at least 40 minutes or until golden brown and bamboo skewer comes clean.


For more than a decade I have used Solo almond paste for my pseudo-Czech Christmas bread.  It was just the right smoothness, sweetness and almondyness.  This year, I opened the ONE can I was able to find at Albertson’s and it was hard and stiff like marzipan… in fact, it probably WAS marzipan.  I have nothing against marzipan and I used to use it when I first started making this bread, but I much prefer a creamier almond paste since it’s easier to spread. This year, however I had  a disastrous test batch where the heavier marzipan core sank to the bottom and became a very gooey mess and the lighter dough rose in a great fluffy arc above it… actually, it wasn’t really a disaster since it was delicious and we ate it… but it wasn’t up to my standards for giving away.

Then I had the brilliant idea of using ground almonds instead of marzipan…and then I found some at the store just down the road!  I’ve made 2 batches with the almond meal mix and am very happy with its performance — and a whole bag of almond meal is enough for at least 4 batches of bread!

1 cup Almond Meal or Flour — I found a package of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at our local health foods store
1 tsp almond extract (to boost that almond flavor)
1/4 cup sugar
Mix well together and adjust to taste.  This is a dry mix that you can dust over your dough and then put the dried fruit in a layer on top.

Dobrou chuť! That’s Czech for bon appetit — which I found on I never actually learned Czech from my paternal grandparents — they were too busy trying to be American and did not want to remember the language of the Old Country. C’est la vie!


Talking Turkey…. among other things

This morning I woke up and found a package on my doorstep.

On my doorstep

On my doorstep.

Squee!  My first delivery from the Farm Fresh to You organic produce club!  I met a sales rep at a party two weeks ago and thought it sounded like a great idea: locally grown organic produce, delivered right to my door.  It wasn’t expensive, so I signed myself up!  I chose the non-cook selection with a delivery rate of once every 3 weeks.

The contents of the box!

The contents of the box!

Inside was: 2 bunches of broccoli, one bunch of fresh spinach, one head of romaine lettuce, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of radishes,  a dozen clementines, 4 satsuma oranges, 3 fuyu persimmons, 3 kiwis, 4 firm apples and a small box of fresh cranberries.


Now we are deep in pre-T-day prep.  Due to the dietary constraints of my mother (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, legume-free, peanut-free), I made some changes to the traditional menu. Instead of stuffing, we will have wild rice with chestnuts and mushrooms.  Instead of wheat flour to thicken the gravy, I will use sorghum flour (it works very well as a sauce thickener). There will be no Mac-n-cheese. And I’ll make a crustless portion of the pumpkin pie.


Tossed Salad
(organic romaine with spinach, carrots, radishes and apples with Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Vinegar and Olive oil on the side for those of us who dress our salads)

Green Beans with Almonds
Sauteed in Olive oil with fresh garlic

Mashed Potatoes
Optional Butter on the side

Wild Rice Stuffing
Korean Wild Rice Mixture cooked in broth with added Quinoa, Mushrooms, Chestnuts, Onions and lots of Garlic and just a hint of toasted sesame oil

The star of the show, Brined and Roasted, Carved to order

Cranberry Orange Relish
Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

Sweet Potato CasseroleYams, Pineapple bits, fresh grated ginger, a dash of rum and brown sugar,
topped with miniature marshmallows

Pumpkin Pie
Featuring coconut milk instead of dairy

I decided to try brining the turkey this year.  I have heard so many chefs wax lyrical on NPR as I drive around town that I just had to try it for myself.  So the first thing I did was google “Brining a turkey”.  I found two recipes that looked interesting: one from Sweet Savory Life and the other from the House Goddess herself, Martha Stewart.

Alice from Sweet Savory Life had the brilliant idea of using an oven bag to brine her turkey in!  I don’t own a big enough bucket and the thought of leaving my turkey in an ice-filled cooler in the garage (a la Alton Brown’s suggestion from an interview on All Things Considered) just seems foolhardy in this SoCal climate (it was 73F at my house today, November 27, 2013).  But an oven bag contains the liquid and fits in any container that I would normally use to store a turkey in the fridge.

Alice’s recipe calls for salt, sugar, water, apple cider vinegar and some spices.  My hubby hates vinegar of any sort, so I took inspiration from Martha Stewart and used a dry reisling instead.

My Brine Recipe for a 13lb Turkey:

1 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry reisling6 bay leaves
1 bunch rosemary
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch sage
Herbs fresh from the garden except for the bay leaves
1 tbl garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
12 cups water
1 oven bag

Dissolve salt and sugar in 4 cups of boiling water and allow to cool.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Rinse turkey and put into bag. Pour brine mix into bag which is in a large container. Close the bag. Put the whole thing in the fridge until ready to roast. Rinse well before rubbing with butter or olive oil and lots of crushed garlic. Roast as usual.

I am debating butterflying the turkey and resting it on top of the stuffing. There is much talk about how stuffing a turkey creates  a salmonella factory in your oven… but I’ve always stuffed my turkeys… for the past 30 years, and no-one has ever had a problem. I’ve also always used bread for my stuffing.  This year is different and we shall see how adventurous I feel in the morning.

That is the plan.  I will report the results tomorrow.

Do you have a game plan for your Thanksgiving Day dinner?

Today’s Haiku for the challenge:

Chop, mince, dice, prepare
Cook what I can in advance
T-Day marathon


I’m dreaming of a white…. pizza

Once upon a time, more than 20 years ago, a young woman invited her gentleman caller over to her house for a “non-date” dinner.  “Bring a salad,” she said, ” and I’ll make a pizza.”

Neither the young woman nor her gentleman caller were ready for a relationships, both still smarting from recent break-ups, but they did enjoy each others’ company and agreed to “non-date” for awhile.

The gentleman caller showed up with a salad that had every vegetable found in a grocery store and a box of cannolis from Vaccaro’s, an exquisite Italian pastry shop in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area.

The young woman made two pizzas, one red and one white. The gentleman caller arrived just as she pulled the white one from the oven and he could see (and smell) that it was most definitely not from a box, but had been made from scratch… even the dough, with fresh herbs from the garden and some sort of garlic magic….

They made small talk, watched a movie on the VCR and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.  Then the young woman sent her gentleman caller home with a few slices of pizza…

The pizza never made it back to Baltimore… and the gentleman caller silently vowed to marry the young woman who made such pizza…


Fast forward 22 years. It is the 20th anniversary of the young woman (now middle-aged) and her gentleman caller. They have had many adventures together, lived in many places, and finally settled down in a bucolic suburb outside of San Diego.  She has made many pizzas over the past two decades, but not a white pizza….

Imagine her surprise when her beloved gives her 10 lbs of pizza flour as an anniversary gift… she returns the gift by making a white pizza…

Natasha’s Betrothal Pizza

Dough: 5 cups pizza flour (regular bread flour will do, but real pizza flour creates an amazing texture that really does knock the socks off regular flour)

1 tsp dry yeast

1.5 tbl kosher salt (the coarse variety — if using fine-grained salt, use 1 tbl)

1 tbl sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

2-4 cups filtered water — as little as you can get away with to make a nice dough.

Knead the dough a few minutes, then put it in the fridge. Leave it alone for at least 12 hours and at most a week. When ready to use, divide into sections and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before shaping into pizza crusts.

Toppings for 1 pie:

A sauce of sorts:
1/4 cup extra virigin olive oil
3 tbls of fresh crushed garlic (I buy crushed garlic in bulk from the Korean grocery; you could crush a couple bulbs instead)
1 tbl granulated garlic
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

Spread over dough.

Then sprinkle 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Dot on about 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese

Add small bits of anchovy fillets

Sprinkle with fresh or frozen (and thawed and drained) spinach

Bake on a pizza stone in the oven at approx. 400F for at least 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven, let cool slightly, slice… and watch love blossom…


A day at the spa… at home…


I had today off… and with the hubby away on a business trip, it seemed the perfect time to turn our little home in suburbia into a luxury spa for a day…

So I turned to the household experts and we created a plan for a day at the Spa de Pause (or is that Paws)…

Although I have never been to an actual spa (other than spending half a day at the Aqua Day Spa in San Diego…note to self, must return as soon as possible), I have read numerous magazines about week-end spa retreats where weary people go for a few days of fresh air, stretching, healthy foods and beauty treatments… re-emerging with renewed energy and glowing skin.

I am truly lucky to live with not one, but TWO relaxation specialists and they vowed to help me destress and unwind… at no extra fee (but wet food would be appreciated…)

Sahara is a highly trained specialist in stretching and sleeping

Sahara is a highly trained specialist in stretching and sleeping

Java showing off her sleeping style...

Java showing off her sleeping style…

So, with time on my hands and two trainers ready to nap, I started my spa day.

Actually, I started the evening before, right after I got home from taking hubby to the airport.  I read The Skin Regime: Bootcamp for Beautiful Skin by Dana Ramos and was inspired to try it for myself.  It’s a really simple program based on sound dermatology.  Dana writes as she sees it — and with honesty and humor, she lays out her plan to take care of skin that needs help: acne scars, mild acne, sun damage, aging, and hyperpigmentation among other problems are all helped with her method.

Here it is in a nutshell (but check out her book and website for more details):
A simple and gentle chemical peel done at home once a week for 6 weeks will yield amazing results.

So I got the stuff she recommended:

What you need for an at-home chemical peel.

What you need for an at-home chemical peel.

Not pictured: gentle cleanser and rubbing alcohol to clean the skin before the peel.  I used Dove for sensitive skin as recommended by Dana.

I got the glycolic acid solution (30% as recommended for a first-time peel) from Skin Obsession and followed the directions.  It stung a bit, but I held on for the minimum of 3 minutes, then rinsed with a baking soda solution to neutralize the peel.  Afterwards, I slathered on CeraVe cream to gently moisturize my newly peeled and very pink skin.

This morning, my skin looked a little more clear.  It was no longer pink, but back to its normal pale shade.  I will try this again next week — and in 6 weeks will make a full report of how weekly peels work for me.

And now I am officially in LOVE with CeraVE moisturizing cream!  It’s not greasy; it’s super moisturizing thanks to  ceramides and hyaluronic acid.  I used it all over today and my skin feels soft like butter!

Purified Water, Glycerin, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide I, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Phytosphingosine, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum.


That was last night.

This morning, I woke up bright and early, drank several cups of spa water ( water with sliced lemons and cucumbers) and headed off to Lake Murray in La Mesa for a 6.2 mile walk.  I figure that if I want to walk a 10k by May 25, I’d better do a trial run today when I have the time. So I grabbed my fanny pack with water, camera, keys and MP3 player and hit the trail.  I took my time on the outgoing 3 miles, and even snapped a picture of a chollas near the trail.

A c;aret colored chollas

A claret colored chollas

But once I reached the halfway mark, I cranked up the tunes and walked a fast 5k back to the car.

Woo hoo! And it took an hour and 45 minutes.  Not bad for a first attempt at a 10k.

Afterwards, it was home to shower and have my spa breakfast:


 Festive Fruit Salad

1 pear, 1 apple, 1 mango (all chopped)1 package each: fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds

Mix together.  Enjoy!

Drink more water.

After breakfast and some time catching up on email, I did some stretching and decided it was time for a bath.  I had originally planned on an evening bath, but my complaining muscles decided earlier was better.  So I slathered my hair with deep conditioner (a souvenir from last year’s Israel trip), filled the tub with hot water, dead sea salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil, and engaged in some home thalassotherapy (aka bathing in sea water for curative purposes).  I opted to eat my seaweed instead of putting in the bath.

A yummy seaweed snack!

A yummy seaweed snack!

Post-bath, my meditation coaches led me through a guided petting relaxation which involved gentle repetitive movements, soft sounds to stimulate the beta waves and both kneading massage and deep-tissue weighted relaxation techniques (think rock therapy with a 12-lb furball)… then we took a nap.

Salad  and spa water for lunch:

Salad2_copySpa Salad

1 pkg spring salad mix
2 cups chopped red kale
1 cup chopped watercress (it was on sale)
1 each: zuchini, cucumber, celery stalk, avocado
1 package cherry tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
juice from half a lemon

Makes tons.

This afternoon, I did some art, read a book and did some strength-training.

More salad and spa water for dinner (along with some un-spa-like Chicken Channa Masala leftovers.)

And tonight, I plan more of the same (minus the strength-training), followed by more purring-therapy.

All in all, a fabulous spa get-in.

Have you ever taken a whole day just to relax and pamper yourself?  What did you do?


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

no brown skin

Happy Thanksgiving from LOLCats!

The turkey is in the oven, the stuffing is baking (both kinds: regular and my mother’s gluten-free with rice bread), the pies are done, the sweet potatoes are ready to go in and the gravy is a-simmering.

Time for a quick breath and a gratitude break.

I am so thankful for all the blessings I have. Health, an adoring husband, two wonderful cats, a house in the suburbs outside San Diego, the weather, a day job, a dream job, a country at peace, and the knowledge that  my family is all safe and sound today. Life is truly good.

Here’s my recipe for island-style sweet potatoes.  Gluten-free, dairy-free so my Mom can eat them.  Little marshmallows on top for my hubby and me.

Natasha’s Island-style Sweet Potatoes

3-4 large sweet potatoes
1 can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup coconut flour (found at ethnic grocery stores) or 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/4 cup rum (opt)
1/2 package little marshmallows

Bake sweet potatoes until soft.  Let cool and peel.  They are MUCH easier to peel when cooked; the peels just slide off.

Mix cooked sweet potatoes with drained crushed pineapple and coconut.  Fold in candied ginger.  Add the rum and mix it all together.

Spread little marshmallows over the top and bake until the marshmallows are gorgeous golden brown and crispy on top and gooey underneath.

YUM!  Serves 8

A whole lotta pumpkin


Tis the Season… for pumpkins and spice and everything nice….

With Hallowe’en past and Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, my thoughts turn to pumpkins… in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, in my pumpkin pie, and for a delightful pumpkin scrub mask.

In fact, my pumpkin pie recipe and my pumpkin pie scrub recipe are so similar, I make them at the same time and while the pie is cooking, I’m a scrubbing…

Both fresh and cooked pumpkin is full of vitamins C, s E,  A, potassium, carotene, zinc, and lutein.  It’s easy to add pureed pumpkin to your favorite baked goods and dishes during the colder months, and the vitamins and minerals can help keep your health in tip-top shape during the winter. Pumpkins are also full of fiber which is always a good thing.  (In fact, our vet recommends adding a tsp of canned pumpkin to our cats’ food when they’re feeling out of sorts.)

Since pumpkins are so filled with nutrition, it stands to reason that so is pumpkin pie:

Natasha’s Semi-Famous Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tbl pumpkin pie spice
(or: 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 15oz can coconut milk
1 deep-dish 9″ pie shell (I like graham cracker)

Mix everything together except the spices. Reserve 1 tbl for facial scrub.
Add in the spices.  Mix well and pour into pie crust.
Bake at 350F for about 40min.  Test with a toothpick near the center;if it comes clean, then it is done.  Let cool and eat.

Natasha’s Super-Yummy Pumpkin Pie Facial/Scrub

1 tbl reserved unspiced pie mix
1 tsp honey
2 tbl sugar (brown or white)
dash cinnamon if you aren’t sensitive

Mix together and slather on your face.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then massage to scrub and exfoliate your skin.  Rinse with warm water.  Enjoy the glow!

Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and minerals as well as exfoliating enzymes (think fruit-derived AHA)  to make your skin smooth and soft.

You can even use pumpkin on your hair to nourish and moisturize.  Just mix 1 part pumpkin puree to 1/2 part coconut milk and add a dash of honey.  Slather it on your hair and cover with plastic.  Relax for at least a half hour (perhaps while eating pumpkin pie with your Pumpkin Spice Latte) then rinse for gloriously shiny locks.

Pumpkin.  It’s not just for pie, anymore… though there’s nothing wrong with pumpkin pie… in fact, I could go for a piece right now!

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