Category Recipes

homemade sunblock recipe

Some ladies and I recently got to together to do a Natural Cleaning Party where we each made one cleaning item and then swapped so everyone got one of each item. We had liquid laundry detergent, powder laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, glass cleaner, sunscreen and bug spray. I picked sunscreen, mainly because I was interested about learning more about what items have SPF and how to put them together for an effective sunblock. Here’s what I came up with:

Sunblock Recipe ~20-30 SPF – makes approximately five 8oz bottles
Purpose Cost for recipe Cost for entire item
1 ½ c olive oil Carry/thin lotion $8.00 $10 16.9 fl oz
1 ½  coconut oil SPF ~15 $8.95 $17.89 (32 oz)
60 drops lavender EO Fragrance/Soothe Skin $5.25 $21
60 drops helichrysum EO SPF ~10 $11.25 $45
120 drops myrrh EO SPF ~20 $22.50 $22.50 (5 ml)
120 drops carrot seed EO SPF ~38-40 $8.75 $17.50 (5 ml)
¾ c zinc oxide SPF ~20 $5 $20 (1 lb)
¾ c shea butter Carry/moisturize $4.00 $9 (16 oz)
5 oz bees wax waterproof $5.65 $5.65
12 vitamin E capsules Moisturize $0.96 $8 (100 count)
5 – 8oz plastic bottles contain $9.38 $11.25
Total $89.69
Per Bottle $17.94

Melt bees wax, shea butter, coconut oil over a double boiler. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients (use a mask when incorporating the zinc – you don’t want that stuff in your lungs) and let cool even more. When it seems like the mixture is hardening, whip to incorporate thoroughly . Once completely cool, I’ve found the best way to get the lotion into the bottles is to put it all in a gallon sized freezer bag and snip the corner.

To increase the SPF, you can add more zinc oxide (although it will make the lotion mixture much thicker). SPF is calculated based on percentage of total mixture with zinc oxide.

At first glance the cost of this is pretty high, but I used almost exclusively organic ingredients. Commercial organic sunscreens seem to run in the $30-40 range, so it’s not too bad in that comparison. Simply removing the myrrh EO, would take cost down to $13.44, which is a significant difference. The bees wax does make the sunscreen pretty thick and I wonder if using fractionated coconut oil instead of the coconut oil would help thin the sunblock out a little further since FCO is always in liquid state.

Next time, I would like to use jojoba oil (SPF 4) to replace the of olive oil or even better, non-GMO organic soybean oil (SPF 10), maybe add Red Raspberry Seed Oil (SPF between 28-50) and remove the myrrh.

Have any of you ever tried to make your own sunblock? Other homemade cleaning items? What has worked for you?


some food lately

I haven’t been cooking like I used to mainly because I find myself falling back on what I know during these busy times. But I have still found a few new recipes that are worth posting about.

We are all about banana bread in my house. Mostly because I keep buying bananas and they turn brown. In the name of frugality, we make banana bread. Lots of banana bread. Enter Double Chocolate Banana Bread which is really more like cake. With very little taste of banana.

I recently hosted my book club and got to make a bunch of really yummy items (because really, book club is about enjoying each other’s company and eating good food as much as it’s about talking about that month’s book). Most of the recipes, I’ve shared here before, but one worth adding to the list is this Asparagus Tart with Gruyere. So very easy, but satisfyingly pretty AND tasty. Wins all around.

And y’all. If you are the bread-baking type, you must bake this bread. So freaking delicious. It’s like dessert that is not dessert. This Buttermilk Honey Bread is my perfect sweet white bread. I can’t stop eating it and my whole family enjoys it as well. Seriously, make it.

This pizza was another large success. It’s fairly time consuming but the end result was very worth it. And really, the ingredients speak for themselves: Camelized Onion, Spinach and Bacon Pizza. There’s no marina but an amazing white wine béchamel. Worth it if you have the time.

Anything you’re making that I should be making?

kebabs, linzers and chiffon

This was a surprising good meal, Chicken Kebabs with Cucumber Noodles. Jude loves raw carrots and cucumbers and I love any kind of peanut sauce so everyone was happy. I’m adding it to my meal planning food list.

chicken kebabs with soba noodle/cucumber salad and sesame carrots

For VDay, Jude and I spent some time making cookies. And really, when Smitten Kitchen posted the recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Heart Cookies, I knew they were the ones to make. So stinking good.

Nutella and hazelnuts heart

Really, everything is better with Nutella.

chocolate hazelnut Linzer cookies

And finally, I can’t believe I haven’t posted the recipe for this cake before. It is probably the best, non-chocolate cake I have ever made. This Mixed Berry Chiffon Cake with Almond Cream Cheese Frosting is a show stopper. And the perfect birthday cake. 🙂 It’s pretty time consuming to make, but I made the cake a week ahead of time and froze it (cakes always taste better after they have been frozen) and made the filling and frosting the day before. Delicious.

Mixed Berry Chiffon Cake with Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

Meal Planning for the New Year

I don’t know about you, but when it comes time to menu plan for the week, I often feel blank and totally uninspired. I am at a loss for any good ideas for quick, somewhat healthy meals even though I have cooked so much food over the years! One of my ideas for the New Year was to compile a list of ‘go-to’ meals that are successful, fairly simple and quick so when I am totally blanking on ideas for what we should eat, I can come here.  Now, this list isn’t for everyone since my family has some weird likes/dislikes (sadly, no sweet potatoes, beans, anything in the squash family or cauliflower <insert large sad face here because I love all those things>) but maybe it will help some of you (like me, hopefully) break out of cooking ruts.

Will you suggest some of your favorite quick meals? I am going to try to keep updating this list as I occasionally venture out and try new meals.

Quick Meals

Chicken Kebabs with Cucumber Noodles

Mom’s Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (add orzo or rice)

Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, and Paprika

Lazy Sunday Casserole

Quinoa ‘Burgers

Yogurt Marinated Chicken

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches

Sautéed Chicken with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette over Spinach

Salt Cured Steak

Honey Soy Stir Fry

Pre-marinated HEB Chicken Thigh Fajitas (leftovers to tortilla soup or enchiladas)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Simple Enchilada Casserole

Tortellini and Meatballs

Panko Crusted Chicken with Maple Mustard Sauce

Man Pleasing Chicken

Easy Sesame Chicken 

Pasta Carbonara (from Best New Recipe)

Grilled Salmon with Browned Butter Couscous

Parmesan Panko Herb Chicken (chicken parmesan style?)

Risotto (risotto cakes for leftovers)

Hamburgers/Turkey Burgers

Fried Rice


Roasted Broccoli

Roasted Carrots (with brown sugar or honey)

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes (maybe 1/2 and 1/2 with mashed turnip or cauliflower)

Sautéed Spinach with garlic

Basmati Rice

Egg Noodles


Spinach Parmesan Quinoa

Slow Cooker Meals

Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin (or Shoulder)

Chicken and Dumplings


Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken (chicken, salsa, taco seasoning, shred when done)

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry (the meal for all diet restrictions, Paleo – no rice, add grilled chicken, vegetarian – serve over basmati, no chicken)

Breakfast (for dinner)

Green Monster Spinach Smoothie

French Toast with fruit

Breakfast Tacos



Breakfast Slab Pie

Pancakes with Fruit

summer foods

We’ve been doing a fair amount of grilling around here since the weather has heated up. And although I didn’t take a picture of this one, you should give Yogurt Marinated Chicken a try on your grill this summer. I promise you, it’s worth it.

We also roasted some poblanos and stuffed them with corn risotto, because Deb from Smitten Kitchen is a genius and created Corn Risotto Stuffed Peppers. We topped them with some slow cooked carnitas and took what could have been a vegetarian entree to a meat eaters dish. It was delicious.

Corn Risotto Stuffed Peppers

In an effort to get us to eat some more fruit, I whipped up Bon Apetite’s Strawberry-coconut lassi (a fancy word for smoothie, I’m assuming): 1.5c strawberry, 2/3 ice, 1/3c buttermilk, 1/3c coconut milk, 1tbsp sugar. Blend. Yum.

Strawberry Coconut Lassi

And finally, what’s summer without my obsession with homemade frozen concoctions. We tried Cooking Light’s lower fat version of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and weren’t disappointed at all.

Waiting for the Icecream


Heart-Stuffed Shells in Ricotta Sauce

I have made this Heart-Stuffed Shells in Ricotta Sauce twice since receiving Smitten Kitchen’s Cookbook for Christmas and it is one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time (let’s just say I’ve felt fairly uninspired on the cooking front these days). It seems like it would be overly rich and heavy, but the lemon juice in the ricotta bechamel sauce AND caramelized onion and artichoke filling brightens the dish significantly. This would be a great vegetarian main dish with a green salad for entertaining or a nice date night at home. I happened to make it for some friends along with a Salted Caramel Budino for dessert that was scarfed too quickly to snap a photo. The true gauge of whether a dish is successful? How many times Jason asks me to repeat the dish. Let’s just say he asks for it frequently. 🙂

Heart Stuffed Shells in Ricotta Sauce


Bread & Wine

Y’all. I got to be an advanced reader for Shauna Niquist’s new book, Bread & Wine. This is my first time to be an advanced reader! I can’t tell you how honored and excited I feel about it all. Shauna’s books have been speaking to me for a long while. One of my facebook quotes that still speaks deeply to who I am is from Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines (my blog post, here from wow, 2008):

” . . . Because feeding the people I love is a hands-on way of loving them. When you nourish and sustain someone, essentially, you’re saying that you want them to thrive, to be happy and healthy and able to live well.”

I first met Shauna at a women’s conference (I cringe just typing it) back in 2008 and she recited Needle and Thread (read it if you haven’t already) and brought me the tears. And folks, I am not a cryer. I bought Cold Tangerines right then, brought it home and read the same short story to my husband and we both sobbed together (it was a good cry, not a sad one). I went on to gift the book to many and devoured it several more times myself (ha, pun intended).

Her second book, Bittersweet (my post from 2011 here) met me right where I was at that particular moment in life. I had not come to terms with my postpartum depression and so much of what she wrote about hit the bullseye of what I was feeling. I still find myself reflecting, similarly that “In some moments, it seemed to me that the stalls of that {farmer’s} market were more sacred and nourishing than any church I’d ever been to, like life itself was there, reaching out to me, with dirty fingers like carrots.”

Obviously, we have similar views on food and faith.

bread&wine_cover_artSo when I read about her newest book, Bread & Wine, I was thrilled. So much of what had stuck with me from her previous books had been food related. A whole book about community around the table. Yes.

Food is one of those things that defines who I am. I have so many memories of cooking struffoli with my grandma and lasagna with my mother and cake after cake after cake. Growing up, dinner around the family table was very important, especially on Sunday. It was a time to relax, enjoy each other’s company, chat about the trivial and the important. I cooked for my roommates and the random stray guys that just ‘happened’ to show up around dinner time all through college. We are always hosting dinner parties. Book club? Just an excuse to feed you and try new hors d’oeuvre recipes. My family is defined by our willingness and fervor to feed the people around us. If you show up at one of our houses, we will feed you. And it will be delicious.

While reading her stories about community around the table, many of the chapters resonated with me. Oddly enough, what I keep returning to, what I’ve found myself describing to friends, is Shauna’s chapter on running. I am likely one of the least athletic people you have met. It may not look that way, my mom has blessed me with ‘good genes’ as many like to say. I generally am pretty slim. But Lord help us all if you catch me trying to dance. My body and I are at odds with each other – as Shauna says, “I’ve always had the sense that something fundamental between my body and soul was disconnected, like a very important wire got cut at some point…” That is why I read, I sew, I knit, I cook, I sing, I draw, I paint, I design, I code. I am not an athlete and I have repeated that mantra to myself from a very young age. But, now, as a 30 year old, I have quietly been getting up at 5:45am and running. This has been happening for months now, and I am slow to mention it, slow to call myself a runner, even when my doctor, after listening to my lungs, asked if I was a runner. But, again, Shauna… “Each week I was surprised at what my body could do, this body I’d long suspected, squared off against, blamed. In the same way that giving birth had connected my to my body in a new and meaningful way, the training gave me a new respect for my body, for what it could do, for how strong and powerful it was.” I am experiencing that in some small way with my running accomplishments. “I tend to believe the worse about myself – I could never do this, I’m not that kind of person, I’ll always be like this, or I’ll never be able to get over that… And then I remember that people can change. Thank I can change. That the same old refrains can get rewritten, and that all it takes sometimes if paying attention to your tears, and ignoring that voice that tries to hypnotize us with next year, next year, next year.” Such an encouragement to me.

But really, on to the food! I meal planned around the recipes in the book for a couple of weeks and had very good success!

Goat cheese biscuits – divine. One of many reasons I could never go paleo. Breakfast quinoa – a surprise hit, very nourishing and sustaining. Maple balsamic pork tenderloin, (please forgive me Shauna), maybe not our favorite version of pork tenderloin, but still very good.

Bread & Wine

Mar-a-Lago burgers – delish. I had to sub a cranberry chutney instead of mango and it was still delicious (and cranberry with turkey, yep). The goat cheese scrambled eggs were not quite my favorite (I think I may have left them too runny, the texture made me gag) but all was redeemed with the bacon-wrapped dates! I have made them before but stuffed with parmesan. The honey goat cheese (thanks HEB) was a delicious change. Oh and the mushroom risotto. Everyone should know how to make a basic risotto. This one was perfect. We made delicious risotto cakes from the leftovers for dinner and several lunches (half the recipe if you are cooking for a family of 4 or smaller!).

Bread & Wine

And y’all, don’t fear the ingredient list of the mango chicken curry, it all came together beautifully. And tasted beautiful as well. Even my picky three year old loved it!

Mango Chicken Curry

This book should release tomorrow (or at least, that’s what Amazon says). Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Even if you have never cooked a meal in your life, this book may inspire you to cook your first. And Shauna’s stories speak to your soul. Something about her rhythm, the words she chooses, the phrases she weaves… I relate so deeply.


the food around here lately

I bet you guys were thinking we haven’t been eating much interesting stuff around here lately, huh? Since I had a couple people mention they miss me posting about food, I decided to give it a go once more. We have been eating some yummy and crazy stuff! Although, I must say, I’m not near as vigilant about getting pictures of everything we’re eating these days, so you’ll have to settle with just the links.

We had a vegetarian friend over for lunch one day so I made these Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Fig and Honey. They were really more like dessert but so yummy. And perfect with curried carrot soup.

And for you gluten free folks, these are some of the easiest gluten free cookies I’ve made and they are SO yummy: Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies. Mine were about half almond butter too. Very crumbly, but it didn’t matter because they tasted so good.

Chocolate peanut butter cookies

A surprise hit were these Quinoa ‘Burgers’, which really aren’t burgers at all – more like pancakes but more filling. And they freeze well too. Sadly, I am not sure what to do about quinoa since it’s come to light that Bolivians aren’t getting to eat as much of their staple food source because of the rising global prices of quinoa. But the farmers are getting paid more . . . It’s quite the conundrum.

Quinoa 'Burgers'

Just in case we were starting to be suspected of being vegetarians, I made Balsamic and Whiskey Steak which then lead to the leftovers becoming Steak and Eggs for breakfast, complete with crispy hash potatoes. Naturally.

Steak and Eggs

And to ward of all the vampires we have in Austin, I gave the Vampire Steak a try. Nice and garlicky.

And another surprise hit? Balsamic Roast Beef. I strained off the cooking liquid after it crock potted all day and put it in the fridge to remove the layer of fat and then cooked it down to make a thick sauce and reintroduced it to the shredded pot roast. Much more flavorful than your standard pot roast.

And seriously, if you don’t think you like cauliflower, try roasting it. I could eat a whole head of cauliflower like popcorn when it’s prepared this way. I’ve been eating it several times a week. (And really, isn’t every vegetable better when it’s roasted?)

And finally, a little something Jude and I whipped up (literally) for dessert at a friend’s house, a Cannoli Tart. It was surprisingly similar to a true Cannoli and not very sweet at all.

Cannoli Tart

How about you? Any good recipes to share?


salted caramel hot chocolate mix

I decided that it would be nice to whip up a simple gift for some of Jude’s mother’s day out teachers. I knew I couldn’t spend a lot of money and I was lacking on time to bake cookies or sew a bunch of gifts so I opted for for salted caramel hot chocolate mix. It’s an interesting recipe because you make the caramel, let it harden and then pulverize it to a powder in your food processor with chocolate chips (and other ingredients) before mixing it all up. It certainly tested the ability of my food processor! But man. It’s delicious. There were several tablespoons left over after jarring them up so I got to sample the mix as intended and in my coffee. Both were out of this world.

Then I whipped up a few labels to go on top of the mason jars and they are ready to be handed off! I hope Jude’s teachers enjoy them!

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

Brownie Cookies with Salted Caramel Creme Filling

Brownie cookies are already seriously high up there in my favorite things. Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips with a slight crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. So fantastic already.

Brownie Cookies

But then you add salted caramel frosting and these things become epic. Seriously epic. Like, can hardly keep from making these every second of every day. Thankfully this recipe made enough filling to make several batches of brownies. Seriously, if you need a show stopper holiday cookie, these  Brownie Cookies with Salted Caramel Creme Filling are some of the best.

Brownie Cookies with Salted Caramel Frosting

 What are some of your favorite holiday cookies to make? Share your recipes in the comments below!