Homemade Sugar and Salt Coconut Body Scrub


Today I have a completely guilt-free sugar recipe! A beautifully scented and amazingly moisturising body scrub. Probably about $2 worth.

I love salt/sugar exfoliating and like having one at-hand in the shower for a tri-weekly exfoliation sesh. You can buy some beautiful scrubs from the shops, of course, but they will set you back anywhere between $20 and $40 a jar. Why would you? I finished my jar of store-bought scrub yesterday and decided to make my own. I made it entirely from things I already had lying around.

The scrub is made up of a few simple ingredients, which is fantastic, when you compare it to the 20+ ingredients in the commercial tubs! I used salt, sugar, essential oils and coconut oil. The scent evaporating in the shower steam is so very dreamy. This mix also makes for a lovely no-reason gift.



Sugar or Salt?
With this scrub, I used a mixture of white sugar (regular sugar, not brown, not caster) and sea salt that I pummeled with a motor and pestle. The reason for the combination is because I only had a little of each left in the cupboard. I think I will stick with this combo in the future because it seems to work.

The Carrier Oil
I used coconut oil in my scrub, which you can get from the supermarket for about $5 a jar. Coconut oil is meant to be super moisturising. It does leave a slight 'oil slick' feel when you're putting it on (which I don't mind) but it easily melts into the skin when you towel off. You can use sweet almond oil instead but I think this is probably more expensive.

Essential Oils
You can use any combination of oil you like - just pick the scents you enjoy! I used a combination of lavender (calming) and bergamot (uplifting). Peppermint essential oil would be divinely refreshing in the shower, and sandalwood would be nice for the boys. Make sure that you use 100% pure essential oils, not those cheapo burner oils from Dollar King. Pure essential oils are a little pricey (~$20) but the bottle will last ages. Whatever essential oils you choose, just add a little bit at a time til you reach your desired strength.

My Mix
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup table salt (or crush sea salt with motor and pestle)
2/3 cup coconut organic coconut oil (health food section of supermarket)
1 teaspoon lavender oil
12 drops bergamot oil
Crushed lavender (This is optional. I actually sprinkled some dried thyme in mine as I did not have a lavender bush at hand!)

Combine all of the ingredients and store in a plastic container in the shower/bath. The oil will naturally separate from the sugar/salt so just give it a little pinkie-stir before using. Enjoy!

SALTED CHOCOLATE CHIP OAT COOKIES


I don't know how I never considered this combination before, but I'm going to have a hard time making Anzac biscuits in the future without adding choc chips. These are really yummy. Last weekend we went on a picnic with friends and these went down quite a treat. I was secretly hoping there'd be some leftovers to bring home, but no such luck.

The version is based on the recipe my Nanna always used for her rolled oat biscuits, with some milk choc chips thrown in and a sprinkling of sea salt on top.


Recipe

1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
3/4 cup desicated coconut
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup rolled oats
125g butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips, approximately
sea salt

Preheat oven to 170 C or 180 C fan forced. Line two cookie sheets with baking paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Melt the butter, honey and water together, then incorporate into the dry mixture. Add the choc chips, leaving some extras for the tops.

Roll approximately 2 teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on trays, pressing down slightly with the palm of your hand. Press an additional 4-5 choc chips into the top of each biscuit then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on trays for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool
completely.


Coconut Bread // With a Fructose-Free + Whole-Wheat Option


This is one of my most favourite recipes.

Let's make no mistake, like many loaf-shaped things masquerading as bread, it's not bread, it's cake. Still, you spread it with butter, so that's bread-like enough for me.

One of my best buddies, Melissa, gave me this recipe back in Year 8 (1998, for those playing at home). #truefriendssharerecipes. It's been a household staple ever since.

The reason I love this recipe so much is because, aside from being tasty, it has to be the quickest and easiest thing out there. Made from just 4 pantry staples, it literally takes 2 minutes to make the batter - with one bowl and spoon. An absolute winner for when unexpected guests pop by sniffing around for tea and cake.

I am sharing two versions of the recipe below - the original, and a slightly healthier option, which is still yum.

This bread is best served with butter. Read this for some info about the difference between butter and margarine. Our fridge staple is Mainland ButterSoft - contains just the basics with no additives but still spreadable.




Coconut Bread: Two Ways

The directions for each version are the same - it's just the ingredients that differ.

Preheat oven to 180 Celcius. Throw all ingredients in a bowl and combine (no need to sift the flour). Pour into a greased and floured small/medium loaf tin. Bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm or cold with butter.

Notes:

  • You can use shredded or desiccated coconut, but I recently used coconut flakes and loved the texture.
  • Dextrose can be bought from the home brewing section of the supermarket. It comes in a red box and has a picture of a beer on the box.
  • Read about sugar alternatives (aka glucose/dextrose) vs. white sugar here.
  • Read about white flour vs. wholemeal flour here.
  • I'm a recent full-cream convert. I've used full cream milk in all three versions. Read about full cream vs. skim milk here

Original Recipe
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup full cream milk (can substitute for your milk of choice)
1/2 cup white sugar

Whole Wheat Fructose-free Recipe
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup full cream milk  (can substitute for your milk of choice)
1/2 dextrose

San Pellegrino Bitter Red Aperitif Sodas // Ladies Who Lunch


Here's a bittersweet little idea for a kitchen tea or a casual home lunch with the girls. I found these San Pellegrino Bitter Red Aperitif Sodas at an Italian deli in Chatswood. Sanbitter came to the market in 1970 as a non-alcoholic alternative to the aperitif - a small drink taken before a meal to whet the appetite.

My friend Mel hosted a small girly afternoon tea a while back (I'll post those pics soon) and these formed part of the scenery. I stamped brown paper labels with initials, wound round the jars with some jute, and slipped in some fresh pink daisies. Something a little different to brighten a table and trend up your lunch. x





Birthday Cake Mix In A Jar | DIY



Have you come across these Cake-in-a-Jar recipes before? I LOVE this handmade gift idea.

Today I wanted to show you a very simple version of the Cake-in-a-Jar that I made for Lindsay last year when we weren't yet living together. His birthday was mid-week and I was interstate for work, but I wanted to make sure he had cake!

As I said, my "recipe" was extremely simple (like, boy simple) - I poured the contents of a packet cake mix in a jar and wrote instructions to match. I included a separate mini jar of sprinkles in the bag. I had to stamp strict instructions for the present not to be opened until his birthday. Even so, I ended up making the cakes myself a few months later, haha - but the novelty was still there, and the jar will probably be around for a while! Here's the label I made...


And here are some of my favourite cake and cookie jars from Pinterest. Have you, or would you, make this as a DIY/BYO gift, and what would you put in the mix? Personally, that brownie mix is calling my name...


...but I love the layers on the bottom right one -- what a beautiful idea for Christmas!

10 Benefits of Yoga and Pilates / I Quit the Gym


Image Source: Yoga By the Sea
There's a bit of a back story to this post, but if you want to skip to the informative part, scroll down to the numbered list!

So, I calculated this morning that I have signed up as a gym member five times over my 31-year-old life, and two of those memberships were at the same place. I've just quit my fifth and hopefully last, and have asked The Main Squeeze to remind me not to join another.

WHY such reckless? Me and gyms have a hot/cold relationship. It's the same pattern every time. I start off all gung ho, then winter and chocolate happen and gung ho turns to don't go. After months of abstinence I get a renewed surge of energy -- roughly enough to get me to one class and back -- before I graciously contact the gym to inform them that as I am moving cities I am so very sorry but I have no choice but to discontinue my membership, with regrets, deep regrets. 

I have absolutely no gripes with gyms or people who enjoy the gym - good on you, I say. Although, I do find it interesting that our Nannas were not gym bunnies nor did they live in an obesity epidemic [read: it's more about the food we eat and obsessive exercise is probs not needed]. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed my share of bouncy gym classes but the relationship gets tired pretty quick, then I end up wasting my money and stressing about the fact that I'm not at the gym. This is surely counter-productive to one of the main benefits of exercise - stress reduction.

Personally, I suppose I just find the whole gym routine a little chore-like. The pulling on of the fugly pants, the pre-filling of the water bottle, etc. etc. what am I Arnold Schwarzenegger? You have to know what works for you and what doesn't. Obviously, I'm a slow learner: five gym memberships.

A little while ago I stumbled across a daily free-to-air Yoga/Pilates program (9am M-F on channel 4Me, NSW). Currently I have the means to do a 9am class from home, so I've been giving the classes a go this week and am really enjoying it. There is no gym commute, there's no flip-flops in the shower rule, and I don't have to namaste worship the yoga teacher at the end. What is that about? The classes alternate between Pilates and Yoga each day.


Alexandra's School of Yogalates - beats a sweat-drenched hardwood floor!
Those who are new to Yoga or Pilates might be wondering which is better? I really like combining or alternating the two (this is based on a few years of classes, not the two TV classes I've done this week, FYI smarty pantses). This keeps things interesting though if forced to pick I would choose Pilates as it's a little more varied from class to class.

I'm the sort of person who likes to look up the benefits of things. I will stand in the shower and read the back of the shampoo bottle while I'm sudsing so I know exactly what is taking place. Understanding the benefits of Yogalates expands the motivation, as does reading the shampoo bottle motivate me to wash my hair. This is what I've investigated...

By the way, there are many different styles of Yoga and Pilates -- this isn't supposed to be a comprehensive list, just a general list of benefits that seem to cross over both Yoga and Pilates - Yogalates.

Health Benefits of Yoga and Pilates

1. Flexibility: Moving and stretching in new ways will help you become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to tight areas. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips. 
2. Strength: Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways, including balancing on one leg or supporting yourself with your arms. Holding poses over the course of several breaths also builds strength.
3. Improved Posture: The back and abdominal strength you build, along with increased flexibility, can help improve your posture, giving the appearance of a taller, leaner body.
4. Muscle tone: As a by-product of getting stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle tone (particularly of the abdominals through Pilates)
5. Balance: Improved balance is one of the most important benefits of yoga as you get older. Poses where you stand on one leg and, for more advanced students, inversions, are great ways to build core strength.
6. Pain Prevention: Increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain.  Yoga also improves your alignment, both in and out of class, which helps prevent many other types of pain.
7. Better Breathing: Most of us take shallow breaths and don't give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus the attention on the breath and teach us how to take deeper breaths, which benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages (helpful for people with allergies) and even calm the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.
8. Mental Calmness: Yoga asana practice is intensely physical. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing a calmness to the mind. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching the breath and how to disengage from your thoughts. 
9. Stress Reduction: Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles, both large and small, seem to melt away during the time you are on the mat. This provides a much-needed break from your stressors, as well as helping to put your problems into perspective. 
10. Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.

Sources: One Two Three

An Australian version of the Twix Brownie // Twix Slice


I'm really quite proud of this recipe! Recently, a picture of a Twix Brownie floated into my universe via Instragram - no questions asked, this had to be made. But when I found the recipe, it was all Weird and American. We just don't have some of those ingredients down here.

The Twix thingy needed to happen regardless, so I made up my own version and the crowd was pleased. So was I!

Also, it's no longer a brownie, it's a good old Aussie slice.

This is pretty much a standard caramel slice with a few tweaks: the base is shortbread (because you know it's all about that base), the chocolate on top is milk chocolate (always) and I incorporated chunks of actual Twix into the top layer.

It's Twix on steroids. This one is definitely going into the book.


Recipe

Base
125g butter, softened
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour

Preheat oven to 160 C / 140 C fan forced. Grease a 27.3cm slice tin with butter.

Beat butter and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the water and flours, in two batches. Knead mixture until smooth, then press into the slice tin.

Bake for 40 minutes then allow to cool for about 30 minutes before you add the caramel.

Caramel Layer
400g can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over moderate heat until boiling. Continue stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Spread evenly over the base. Return to oven and cook for a further 10 minutes. Cool before adding chocolate.

Chocolate Layer
350g milk chocolate
Packet of Fun-Size Twix; each Twix cut into 5 pieces

Place the milk chocolate (not the Twix) in the top of a double saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until melted. Spread over the caramel. Press the chunks of Twix into the top of the chocolate layer. Refrigerate until set, then turn the slice onto a board to cut. Trim off the four edges before cutting into pieces.

Tips

  • Ingredients: always use BUTTER, never margarine (mortal baking sin!) and make sure you use good quality chocolate in baking - NEVER that nasty Home Brand Cooking Chocolate stuff! On the other hand, Home Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk is perfectly fine and it's half the price.
  • Caramel is easy to make once you've done it a couple of times, but my first attempt at caramel a few years ago was a concrete disaster (you could have built a house with that stuff). So, I'm going to spell this out. You want the stove temperature to be 'moderate', so set it just below the halfway point (maths for dummies: if you have 9 dials, put it on 4). The most important thing with caramel is that you must dedicate your life to it for 10 minutes - no texting or toilet breaks. Stir the mixture continuously until it begins boiling. Once it begins boiling you might start to fret that it's catching on the bottom - it will be catching on the bottom, but that's okay - the trick is to keep stirring continuously and very quickly for 5 minutes (time it from when it starts boiling) making sure that the caramel catching on the bottom doesn't get a chance to stick and burn. You might notice a few little lumpy bits floating around - don't fret - just keep stirring quickly. Stop at 5 minutes. The caramel consistency might seem runny, but just trust me, it's done.