Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DIY : Bath Bombs to relax and refresh (Non-Food Post)

For a few months now, I have been experimenting with Essential Oils (EOs). 
At first I just sniffed tentatively and found the aroma very strong and actually wrinkled my nose at it.
Little did I know that soon I would learn to appreciate their aroma and uses!

These days I use EOs to diffuse, to apply topically, for relaxing in the bath, in food... 
Depending on what oil you use, the oils can help promote feelings of relaxation or have a calming effect or energize

Everyday when I drop and pick S from school, I see teachers on street corners in their crossing guard jackets, helping the itty bitties ( walking, or on scooters or bikes or even skateboards) cross the road safely to reach school. 
It does not matter whether it freezing or icy rain beats down on them, they are there! So, last week was Teacher Appreciation Week in Li'll S's school and I wanted to do something special for them as well  S's class teacher. Ms.M is gentle and kind and made my son feel welcome and at ease in the classroom. Beginning a new school in the middle of the year is very intimidating. I'm grateful that she helped him settle down and that he loves and trusts her.

Coming back to the Essential Oils, there are days when I *really* need something to calm me. Li'll S can drive me crazy within minutes of reaching home. 
The lunch box comes back as it was sent. Number one reason why I lose it! 

Homework, all of one measly page- for the week- is left at school or in the event that it comes home, the incessant whining over it.

Bed time and dragging feet..  

And, " Mumma, I neeeeeed waaater.."  sigh! *just* as I was dropping off...

I *need* something to calm me.

If one child can do so much, can you imagine what a classroom full of 8-9 year old children can do?! 

If anyone deserves to relax or need an energy boost at the end of a long day, it is a teacher. 
A mother or a teacher have one safe haven to unwind and relax, in the bathroom, taking a long and leisurely bath. 
Warm scented water and silence feels like a bit of heaven on earth.
I wanted to give Ms. M this, much deserved energy boost and so decided to make bath bombs. 

I started out by ordering this bath bomb molds

You can use silicone or normal ice cube molds as well.
There are many 'recipes' or 'formulas' for making bath bombs. 
Here is how I made my lot:

I used
1 cup Baking Soda
1/2 cup Epsom Salt
1/2 cup Citric Acid 
1/2 cup Cornstarch
4 Tsp  Organic Coconut Oil 
Few drops of food color
20 drops each, Essential Oil of your choice ( I used Wild Orange and Lavender

First: Mix the dry ingredients  together.

I divided the dry mix into two equal parts.

Now, when it comes to mixing the wet ingredients, be v-e-r-y careful. Add the coconut oil + EO + color very slowly.

The second the wet ingredients mix with the dry, the mixture gets activated and starts fizzing. So use one hand to drop the oil and your other hand to quickly mix it all together.

Hold some of the mix in your hand and squeeze it, if it clumps up, it is ready to be molded.

Working quickly, scoop the mixture into the molds and overfill the halves.

Now carefully bring together the two halves and squeeze together and let the excess mixture fall away.

To un-mold, gently tap the top of the mold and remove the top and then the bottom. Let the bath bombs air dry.

Repeat the steps for the next lot.

Handle these gently, they tend to fall apart easily. I messed up the Lavender one and finally had to send just the Wild Orange ones.


When I thought of it, I could have added a few drops of water ( about 1/2 tsp) to help bind the mixture better.

You can add extra essential oil if you want to make it stronger. But be careful, EOs are highly concentrated and can be overwhelming.

I had a severe headache ( sinus related) and I used a Lavender bath bomb and used a 4-5 drops of Peppermint EO in the bath water and then dropped the bomb. I had a relaxing bath and eased some of the pain and opened up my nose. I also felt pleasantly drowsy and actually napped for an hour!

Disclaimer: I am not an agent / wellness advocate and do not sell anything, these oils are my personal stock and I am sharing what I like about them and what has worked for me.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week and saying Thank You with a chocolate cake with floral decoration.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in my son's school. 
It's time to stop and thank all those loving teachers who share knowledge with the little ones and work not just towards making them learn Math or Grammar but also work on their confidence and self-esteem.

When we moved, 3 months ago, the biggest change was for Li'll S. Changing school mid year is dreadful. Facing a classroom full of new faces, a new teacher is rather intimidating.
Thankfully, he was made welcome and soon settled in and has adjusted very well to all the changes thrown at him. 

chocolate cake with buttercream flowers

Everyday, when I pick S from school, he looks relaxed and is happy. As a mother, I couldn't ask for more.

chocolate cake with flowers
  So when Teachers Appreciation Week rolled by, I wanted to show my gratitude and what better than to share something sweet.

I made this cake for Teachers Lunch.
Its a 4 layer Chocolate cake with whipped cream filling.
The outer frosting and flower decoration is vanilla butter cream.
Sadly, the pictures don't do justice, I clicked them in a hurry and in bad yellow lighting.

For those who want a frosting recipe:
For this cake I used

4 sticks Salted Butter
1 Tbs Vanilla extract
2 Lbs. Powdered / confectioners Sugar
Milk ( I add by the teaspoon, about 3-4)  to get stiff consistency icing

Start by using room temperature butter.
Add the soft butter to the stand mixer.
Use the paddle attachment and start at a low speed and beat the butter till its soft, creamy and a shade lighter.
Add the vanilla and whip the butter some more.
Add the sugar, slowly and mix at slow speed to incorporate it well ( if the mixer is at high speed, the sugar will fly out  and you will have a white layer on the counter top)
Beat the mixture for at least 4-5 minutes to mix the butter and sugar well and make smooth icing.

To store, place the frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate.
I place the frosting in a container, then put saran wrap and then place the lid. That is optional.

buttercream floral decoration

I made this cupcake for my friend Prachi's son. She helped me carry the cake to school. It was a big cake and I needed help.

This cupcake is VERY special for me. See that orange rose? My little boy made it! He saw me making flowers and wanted to pitch in and help. I am so proud of him!

That's it from my end today. Have a great week ahead! 
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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Vegetable and Corn Chowder (IP/ Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe)

February was the 'Sugar Free' month in the AC@H household. It started off with high enthusiasm and I am happy I could stick to my plan. I admit, there were times I felt like I was caving in, but luckily, I managed to stick to my resolution. 
I also realized that my sugar craving is almost gone. The other day, the son and I made chocolates at home and I couldn't eat a single piece.
Earlier, I would make sheera or something sweet at the drop of a hat and the temptation to sit down to a piping hot bowl of sugary sweetness as soon as it is done was unbeatable, but not anymore! 

I am so glad I did this.

But I also realized that sometimes, sugar, in small portions is ok. For example, a bit of sugar in pohe and upma elevates the taste and balances the flavors. Ditto with some vegetables (for example, this simple Dudhi chi bhaji or cabbage (made the Maharashtrian way).The addition of sugar makes it taste so good! 
My morning cup of chai is what gets me going and adding a bit of jaggery to it makes me happy. It's the one concession I will make. It helped me stick to my resolution, I believe.  

So to sum it up, avoid sugar where you can, if possible, substitute with jaggery (at least it has iron content) and when absolutely neededuse sugar in small quantities. 

I have also been making good use of my EPC. With the temperatures still low and snow piled up till the end of February, it's was very cold.  Cold....cold evenings and piping hot soup make such a good combination.

When we first moved to Utah and stayed in the hotel for a while, eating out was our only option. I carried the EPC,but who wants to stock grain and oil and spices in a hotel room. The lingering smell is unavoidable and I was not going to have it sticking to us as well as all our belongings packed in suitcases. 
So on the bitter cold evenings, we would bundle ourselves in the car and drive to Zupas (which, by the by, was opposite the hotel, but we weren't inclined to trudge through the snow and wind) and fill up on heartwarming soups. 
I tried Vegetable Chowder for the first time and loved it. 
After that, I scoured the net for recipes and found so many that my recipe is a mish-mash of all I read. 
It is very simple and also a very forgiving recipe.
Approximate measurements are fine as long as you are careful and don't overdo anything.

Start with chopping vegetables, I used my chopper to get even pieces. 
I used  1 Red onion, 1 Russet potato, 1 (big) or 2 medium carrot, 1 zucchini and 1 - 1 1/2 cup corn kernels.
This made enough soup for one dinner (for 3) and M took some to work the next day and I slurped up a small bowl for my lunch the next day.

Start the Electric Pressure Cooker (Magic Chef/ Power pressure cooker / Instant Pot) and use the Sear/ Saute option.

Heat oil and add the chopped onion and saute till translucent. Add in all the chopped vegetables and mix for a minute or two. 

Add 2-3 tbsp. of All Purpose Flour ( this acts as a thickener)  and mix well to coat the vegetables.
Add salt, pepper and about 1- 1.5 tsp seasoning ( I used Italian seasoning, it's what I have on hand, you can use oregano / mixed herbs/ thyme) and added a dash of red pepper flakes. 
Add 2- 3 water / vegetable stock, stir well. 
Press the 'Cancel' button and seal the pressure cooker (whistle on 'seal' mode). 
Set it on 'Manual' mode for 2 minutes. QPR (Quick Pressure Release) once the timer beeps. Be careful when releasing the pressure, the steam can burn!

Add 1 full cup of milk ( I used whole milk, you can use half-n-half if you wish, to get a creamier version) and mix.
I noticed that my soup was a bit watery and so I used the immersion blender and blended it just a bit. The pureed vegetables gave the soup some body and it was perfect.

Turn on the saute mode again. and let the soup come to a gentle boil stirring almost all the time ( I was worried, because of the milk, it may not be needed). 
Grate and add Cheese ( I used Sharp Cheddar) and mix to incorporate.
Once the cheese is mixed in the soup switch off the EPC. 
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Soup,one pot meal, chowder, vegetable chowder

Adding 1-2 cloves of minced Garlic (after sauteing onion) also tastes so good. I cannot recollect if I did or not, but as a side note, add in some. 
You can also add Yellow squash, celery, broccoli florets if you like. 
Adding Quinoa will amp up the protein. Just make sure you rinse it thoroughly to avoid the bitter taste.
Serve hot. Add a dash of red pepper flakes if you like. 
Adding some crushed tortilla chips as a garnish to vary the taste.

What's on my mind now.

I want to learn to enjoy salads and also to cut down on carbs. I also want to cut down on snacking. I love crunchy snacks and fall prey to them very easily. I did that just yesterday on my weekly visit to the Indian store. phrrrp! 
I guess, once I finish this lot, I will try and not buy any or at least but and v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y eat my way through the bag. 

The other thing is, to use my EPC more than I already am. I love using it for boiling eggs (makes the perfect boiled eggs and no babysitting), making chaivegetables, rice and khichadi, steaming ALu wadi, making yogurt and fermenting idli/dosa batter and very recently, dhokla and pullikachal ( coming up on the blog soon). 
I will update this place as I experiment and hope it helps fellow EPC users. 

Have a great week ahead, folks! 

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