Thursday, July 27, 2017

Small knitting projects

I kept going in my efforts to knit through the stash, prioritizing baby projects because, well, people keep getting pregnant. I mean, if everyone could just stop having babies for a second, I could finally knit something for myself, you know? Ha! I suppose I’ll get there eventually.

I started by digging into some gorgeous yellow yarn, Malabrigo Lace Baby Merino in Cadmium – it also comes in worsted weight and probably others, but what I had on hand was lace, so I knit double-stranded. First, I made a puerperium cardigan for a tiny little boy who turned out to have the really cool name Asher Hendrix. I used blue buttons that were in my collection, originally from Etsy.

In my previous post in this series, I mentioned the ongoing grey yarn saga. See, I had a skein of Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace Yarn in Medium Grey (03) left over from a previous project, and I really wanted to use it up. I thought I had enough to make a small garter yoke baby cardigan for the Fox, but it turns out I didn’t. So I set about buying a second skein, only to realize that it’s been discontinued! I finally located one in the U.K. Of course, once I got it, it was from a different dye lot, so I figured I’d use the recommended trick of knitting alternating rows from each skein, so that the greys blend into one another. So I started over, only to realize that there was still a visible striping effect! I frogged everything and balled up the colors individually. I ended up making another puerperium cardigan with most of the first skein, this one for the Fox, and the second (British) skein is still sitting in my stash.

As for the garter yoke cardigan, I made it in more of that luscious cadmium yarn, with star buttons I hadn’t used in a while.

I decided to make the Fox an Offset Wraplan with more of that yarn – I can’t get enough of that color, and it’s super soft, too. Plus, it’s a great pattern! I used wooden buttons.

I then used up some Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Duck Egg (leftover from the Temari sweater) to make another Jeudi sweater, again for the Fox.

Friends of mine announced they were adopting their second daughter, so I made them a short-sleeved Kina cardigan with Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Coral. I had 4 skeins, so I made the 4T version – it’s definitely too big for her right now, but at least she’ll grow into it (and can currently wear the cardigan I had made for her older sister). I used a button from my stash and threw in a knit flower to make it more interesting. I really like the pleats at the neckline! It turns out I actually had a blank card with a design that looked like the flower, so of course I had to use it for the care instructions!

Finally, for the Little Prince, I made the Lancelot sweater I’d been eyeing for so long. I bought some Classic Elite Adelaide Yarn in Charcoal because, based on its description, it seemed perfect to show off the pattern on the front. In person, it’s a bit fuzzy and I feel like it looks better in the pictures than in real life. I had set aside two large black buttons to finish it up, but they ended up being too big, so I riffled through my mother’s button collection and chose two yellow ones. I needed a little less than 4 skeins of yarn (I thought I’d need 6), but then again the sweater came out a bit smaller than I expected – I had hoped it would fit him for a trip a year from now, but I’ll be lucky if he can still wear it this winter! At least I’ve got another child on whom I can pawn it off.

Clafoutis à la rhubarbe et à la noix de coco

Je n’ai vu de la rhubarbe à l’épicerie qu’une seule fois depuis mon arrivée, au début juin, mais heureusement, j’en ai acheté deux paquets! J’ai fait un peu de compote avec le premier, et avec le deuxième, ce clafoutis. Il s’agit d’une recette sans produits laitiers ni gluten, et je conserverai la base pour utiliser avec d’autres fruits, car c’était vraiment réussi! J’ai modifié un peu la recette en utilisant un moule carré de 8 pouces et en ajoutant une pincée de sel; la version ci-dessous est la mienne.

250 g. de rhubarbe
2 c. à soupe de sucre
3 gros œufs
125 g. (5/8 de tasse) de sucre
1 pincée de sel
90 g. (9 c. à soupe) de fécule de maïs
1 boîte de 400 ml de lait de coco
40 g. (6 c. à soupe) de noix de coco râpée

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F et bien graisser un moule carré de 8 pouces.

Peler la rhubarbe (je ne l’ai pas fait) et la couper en petits tronçons d'environ ½ pouce ou 1 cm. La déposer dans un bol et la recouvrir d'eau bouillante. Saupoudrer de 2 c. à soupe de sucre et couvrir. Laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes, cela ayant pour but d'attendrir la rhubarbe et de lui enlever un peu de son acidité.

Fouetter les œufs avec le sucre et le sel; ajouter la fécule de maïs, la noix de coco râpée et le lait de coco.
Égoutter la rhubarbe et l'ajouter au mélange. Verser cette préparation dans le moule et cuire au four pendant 25 minutes.

Servir tiède et saupoudrer d'un peu de sucre glace, au goût.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Chicken with Mustard and Bacon

I decided to make this recipe because it claimed to be a one-pot meal, and I’m all for ease; that being said, it’s really just a main dish and does not include any sides! So I made honey-and spice-roasted carrots to accompany the dish (though if you wanted something richer, I’d recommend the sour cream mashed potatoes I tried earlier last month). I found the chicken too salty, though, so I think you should taste the sauce before adding any salt – this may also depend on what kind of mustard you are using. Other than that, it was really good!

¾ cup Dijon mustard, divided
½ tsp. smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
3 Tbsp. lactose-free cream (or soy creamer)
6 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine ½ cup of the mustard, the paprika, and the salt and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl.

Fully coat each chicken thigh in the mustard mixture. If using chicken thighs, be sure to get in all the nooks and folds. Place the coated chicken in 2 large ziploc bags and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and set aside.

Add the diced bacon to a large skillet over medium/high heat. Stir as it cooks, until fully crisp and done. Set aside and allow to drain on a paper towel; leave the bacon grease in the skillet.

Place the chicken in the empty pan and brown each side for 4-5 minutes (the chicken doesn't need to be all the way done). Remove from the pan and set aside with the bacon.

Add the wine to the pan and scrape the bottom with a wooden spatula to deglaze. Whisk in the remaining mustard, the whole grain mustard, and the cream. Add back in the chicken, bacon and toss in the fresh thyme.

Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is reduced to your liking.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Banana Bread with Muscovado and Chocolate Chips

You know by now that I like banana bread. But I must have posted a dozen recipes already! I wanted to try something a bit different, so I made one with maple syrup, but I felt like I couldn’t taste it much. I mean, it was good banana bread, just somewhat plain. I then tried a recipe from Orangette that uses muscovado as a sweetener. Sadly, muscovado was *really* expensive at the store, so I did the same thing Molly Wizenberg did in her recipe: I used all the muscovado I had, which was about half of what was called for, then I used brown sugar and a tablespoon or two of molasses to make up the rest (I weighed it all to get the right amount). It was really good, and with chocolate chips, impossible to resist!

2 cups (250 g.) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 generous pinch of kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (235 g.) muscovado sugar
14 oz. (400 g.) ripe bananas (peeled weight), or about 3 medium bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 ½ oz. (100 g.) dark chocolate, chopped to the size of fine gravel (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease a standard-size loaf pan (approximately 9 ½ x 5 inches) and line it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Whisk to blend.

In another bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. They should still be lumpy, not fully pureed. Stir in the vanilla.

In yet another bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter briefly, just to get it going, and then add the sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is light, fluffy, and the color of coffee with milk. Add the beaten eggs, and continue to beat. (If the mixture looks like it’s curdling at any point, add a spoonful of the flour mixture.) Add the chocolate and the mashed bananas, and beat to mix. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Beat to incorporate.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and smooth the top. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out moist but clean. If there is any sign of wet batter, continue baking for a few more minutes, tenting the top with foil if it’s browning too much.

Cool the finished loaf in the pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides with a thin knife, then carefully lift out the loaf with the parchment liner. Cool completely before slicing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Petits pots de crème à l'érable et au beurre d'arachides

Ces petits pots de crème à l’érable et au beurre d’arachides, de Coup de Pouce, étaient excellents! J’ai obtenu 8 ramequins d’une capacité d’environ ½ tasse chacun et je les ai saupoudrés de flocons d’érable que j’avais sous la main – je recommande fortement!

¾ tasse de sirop d'érable
1 tasse de beurre d'arachides crémeux (j’ai utilisé du Kraft)
1 ½ tasse de crème sans lactose
flocons d’érable, pour garnir (facultatif)

Dans une petite casserole, mélanger le sirop d'érable et le beurre d'arachides. Cuire à feu moyen, en brassant, jusqu'à ce que le mélange soit homogène. Verser la préparation dans un grand bol et laisser refroidir légèrement.

Entre-temps, dans un autre bol, à l'aide d'un batteur électrique, battre la crème jusqu'à ce qu'elle forme des pics fermes. À l'aide d'une spatule, incorporer délicatement la moitié de la crème fouettée au mélange de beurre d'arachides en soulevant délicatement la masse. Incorporer le reste de la crème fouettée de la même manière jusqu'à ce que la mousse soit presque homogène. Verser dans de petits ramequins et réfrigérer pendant au moins 4 heures ou jusqu'au moment de servir. Garnir de flocons d’érable, si désiré.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Chocolate - bean-to-bar, local, and otherwise

I decided to try some Canadian bean-to-bar chocolates during my stay this summer. I placed an order on the Miss Choco website, which is (as far as I know) the only store in Quebec specialized in bean-to-bar chocolate, though not all products are local. I bought three bars through them.

The first one I ate was Hummingbird Chocolate in Fleur de Sel. The chocolate itself was good and quite smooth, but a bit too bitter for my taste, at 70% cocoa. I liked the design of the bar and the packaging, but oddly, even though the company is in Ontario, I initially couldn’t tell which, of the English or French text, was the translation, as both were poorly written. (I’d wager now that the English is poorly written and then the French translation… Well, garbage in, garbage out.) That contributed to making a poor overall impression, even though I’d obviously like to support the company.

I then tried a Chocolat Madagascar bar – I can’t find it online anymore, but it’s a 61% cocoa content with fleur de sel and (I only realized this after tasting it) combava. Sadly, the citrus flavor (almost orange-y) overwhelms everything, and I can’t even taste the salt. I’m not a big fan of this one.

The third one was from Palette de Bine and it was a single-origin bar with beans from Vietnam. Even though it was 72% cocoa, I found it delicious, plus it had a smooth mouthfeel. I also liked the design of the packaging and bar (made to look like wood). This is the one I’d definitely buy again! No wonder they won so many awards.

I placed a separate order to Les Chocolats de Chloé for truffles. Interestingly, even though a photo pf their products appears on the Miss Choco website, they use Valrhona chocolate instead of bean-to-bar (the photo is in the section explaining how confectioners use couverture chocolate, but there is no legend to the photo, so it’s really not clear why it’s there). The truffles come in very interesting flavors, but sadly many of them were unidentifiable, meaning either they weren’t on the chart, or they were but I still couldn’t taste what I expected to taste. The spices, ginger and vinegars came through well, but I felt like most fruit was muddled at best. It should also be noted that the package was sent without any insulation against heat, so the truffles were a bit worse for wear upon arrival… They were still good, but next time I’d either order them in winter or choose them myself in the brick-and-mortar store.

Finally, I’m talking about it here even though it’s not bean-to-bar either: Rochef Chocolatier’s Dark Chocolate with Fleur de Sel. This was absolutely delicious! It’s 70% cocoa, but I did not find it too bitter at all. This was something I just picked up at the grocery store, from a local company, and I’d go for it again. I’ll actually keep an eye out for it next time I’m at IGA.

Mini-parfaits de poires à l'érable

J’ai fait ce dessert pendant que j’ai de la crème sans lactose… En fait, je pensais aussi profiter de mes vacances au Québec pour acheter des flocons d’érable, et je n’en ai pas trouvé! J’ai donc pris du sucre d’érable avec un diamètre assez gros. J’ai aussi trouvé que la recette n’était pas claire, puisqu’en la relisant, je me rends compte qu’il faut 2 tasses de crème *déjà* fouettée – ce qui est logique, je trouvais que j’en avais beaucoup trop! Il faudrait donc peut-être… ½ tasse de crème? J’ai aussi utilisé le liquide qui me restait après avoir fait cuire les poires pour sucrer la crème, car j’avais d’une part trop de liquide et d’autre part de la crème trop fade. C’est donc facile d’ajuster, c’est sur le principe d’une bagatelle… On pourrait aussi y aller avec des pommes et de la muscade ou de la cannelle en automne?

1 carré de pâte feuilletée de 10 cm (4 po)
2 c. à soupe de beurre sans lactose
6 poires mûres, pelées, épépinées et coupées en cubes
½ tasse de sirop d’érable
2 tasses de crème fouettée sans lactose (voir plus haut)
2 c. à soupe de flocons d’érable

Préchauffer le four à 400 °F.

Déposer la pâte feuilletée sur une plaque à cuisson et la couper en cubes de 2,5 cm (1 po). Recouvrir d’une feuille de papier parchemin et d’une autre plaque à cuisson de la même grandeur que la première.

Cuire la pâte au four pendant 30 min ou jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit bien dorée. Retirer du four et réserver.

Dans une grande poêle, faire fondre le beurre. Ajouter les cubes de poires et faire sauter pendant 3 min à feu moyen. Ajouter le sirop d’érable et laisser caraméliser pendant 2 min. Retirer et réserver.

Avant le service, monter les verrines en y déposant successivement des cubes de pâte feuilletée, des cubes de poires à l’érable et de la crème fouettée.

Garnir chaque verrine de flocons d’érable et servir.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Curly hair

Around the time when I turned 30, my straight hair became wavier and now, it’s definitely curly. This means that I’ve had to change not just hair products but hair care routines as well, and there’s been a learning curve. (This is made harder by the fact that somehow, curly hair has become a statement and mainstream product lines just aren’t helpful, not to talk of hairdressers!) Now that I mostly know what I’m doing, I figured I’d share some resources in case it helps other people out there. (Some of these links are affiliate links, which means that as long as my Amazon store is up and running, if you use it to make a purchase, I’ll get some money off my next purchase.)

I started reading online about care for curly hair, especially the Curly Girl method (more on that in a moment) – namely cowashing more often, and eliminating sulfates (too drying for curly hair) and silicone (too heavy for curls) from hair products. But even with the proper technique, some products work better than others. In the spirit of thorough reviewing, I’ll name-check products I tried even if I didn’t end up liking them; feel free to skip ahead to the paragraph where I get back to the Curly Girl method (in bold font).

Up until last fall, I was using a lot of Organix products – specifically the Quenching + Coconut Curls shampoo and conditioner, along with my trusty argan oil Defining Cream. (For some reason, though, the Curling Hair Butter never really did it for me, as it was either too heavy if I left it in or not enough if I rinsed it out.) I still like those products, though I realize now that they sometimes leave my hair frizzy, perhaps because they contain alcohol.

I mentioned Moroccanoil here, but I actually first heard of it there. I started using their Original Treatment with argan oil on my now-curly hair, to tame frizz. I really liked it, but I’ve since decided that it’s not necessarily any better than the Biosilk Silk Therapy Original Serum I’d been using on my straight hair, and that one is certainly less expensive, so I think I’ll stick to that for now. (For the record, the Moroccanoil Frizz Control spray was no help whatsoever.) I still have more frizz than I’d like, but at least this helps a lot on dry hair.

I tried Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner, which was fine but a bit unremarkable. I wanted to love L’Oréal’s EverCurl Cleansing Balm, but even though I liked the results, I wasn’t crazy about the smell. I also tried Joico Co+Wash Curl, but I felt like my hair was too dry after using it (maybe because it contains alcohol?), and I find pressurized canisters impractical (they don’t travel well, for example, and it’s hard to gauge how much product is left at any given time).

Then I focused on hydrating my hair. I haven’t had luck with hydrating masks; I tried Garnier Whole Blends Hydrating Mask (coconut water and vanilla milk formula), but it felt too heavy for my hair. The next step would be a homemade mask with something like coconut oil, but I’ve been putting that off because it sounds messy – I’ll get around to it eventually, I guess. As a post-shower hair gel, I tried but actually did not like Kérastase K Curl Fever – it was hard to dose and I usually ended up with crunchy hair, which I hate even if the curls are decent – and Dippity Do’s Girls With Curls Curl Defining Cream – also less than ideal, and contains alcohol so leaves some frizz. In any event, I’ve now found something that works even better for my hair.

Enter Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey et al., which seriously changed my life (I know it sounds trite, but I really mean it). The corresponding website is I had read a lot online about how to care for curly hair before that. There are other websites that provide both information and products, like NaturallyCurly.Com, but despite my best intentions, I could never figure out if I was a 2B or another kind of 2. But now, with the Curly Girl handbook, I know I have wavy hair and I have clear instructions to follow for my specific hair type. I couldn’t implement everything all at once, but every time I changed one thing in my routine to follow these instructions, my hair got better. I used their technique to squeeze water out of my hair, and the curls were so much nicer already! I switched to a cotton knit instead of a terry cloth towel, and my curls were even nicer (I ended up buying jersey knit pillowcases in colors that match my terry cloth bath towels and use those on my hair). And I know what to look for in hair products. The book also has chapters for men and children, as well as white/grey curly hair, plus tips on cutting and styling curly hair. I strongly recommend it if your hair is curly and you’re not sure how to care for it!

The products that I found and liked enough to use are from two collections. First, from the DevaCurl line for wavy hair, the ”low-poo” cleanser, conditioner, and anti-frizz styling cream. These are on the pricier side, but packages tend to be cheaper (I got one as a gift and bought a second during a 25%-off sale). On the lower-price end of things is the Hair Milk collection by Carol’s Daughter. Predictably, the leave-in moisturizer is too heavy for my wavy curls, but the cleansing conditioner, the (alcohol-free) styling gel, and the cream-to-serum lotion are working out really well. (Sadly, they seem outrageously expensive to procure in Canada…)

As far as hair style goes, I had grown out my bangs already, since with hair as thick as mine and curly to boot, I felt like they were too much to maintain. (It’s actually funny how many people have a love/hate relationship with their bangs!) That being said, my otherwise very nice hairdresser didn’t know how to cut curly hair, despite having naturally curly hair herself (she always straightened hers). So I used the DevaCurl website to find a stylist who could cut curly hair, and I am thrilled with my new hairdresser! It’s amazing how much of a difference the proper technique can make. For the record, she used Redken’s Frizz Dismiss line on me, and I particularly liked the hair mask. I haven’t found the time to go see her since the Fox was born, but I’ve booked an appointment for next month and can’t wait!

Hopefully this post will help some curly-haired people out there love their hair again!

[Update, August 2018: I wanted to add a few products to this list. First, as a less-expensive alternative to Deva’s no-poo and conditioner, I recommend Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle shampoo and conditioner. The tea tree smell is nice, though it’s obviously not the same as the grapefruit I enjoyed so much in Deva’s no-poo. Since neither was easily attainable in Canada, though, I started using Live Clean products and am really enjoying them. I still use Dippity Do’s Girls with Curls Curl Defining Cream, but I also like Whole Blends’ Smoothing Oil with coconut oil and cocoa oil on wet hair. The occasional coconut oil hair mask doesn’t hurt, either.]

[Update, February 2019: More products that I enjoy! From the DevaCurl line; the Melt Into Moisture Matcha Green Tea Butter Conditioning Mask instead of (or after) cleansing and conditioning; the Supercream Coconut Curl Styler on wet hair; and the Set It Free Moisture Lock Finishing Spray, as a refresher on day 2. That being said, DevaCurl products are expensive – I only get them on sale, and even then, it seems like a lot of money. Enter Curls’ Crème Brule Whipped Curl Cream, which I use on wet hair and let air dry. It helps tame frizz while keeping my hair soft, and the smell is unobtrusive. I buy it at Target, and it’s much more affordable than DevaCurl! I also quite like this cleansing conditioner, but ended up getting rid of this styling gel that made my hair too stiff.]

[Update, August 2019: I tried Felix Hair Care Repair Mask, which I leave on while I shower and then rinse off, and it’s great at taming frizz! It leaves my hair soft and doesn’t have a strong fragrance. Plus, it’s made in Montreal.]

[Update, January 2020: I tried CurlMix, but despite taking the quiz to figure out what line I should use, the products were too much for my hair. I then tried LUS, which is a Canadian brand that you can have delivered in the U.S. as well. I started with the travel kit and loved it so much that I’m now using the full-size 3-step system. I use it no more than once a week, because of the price, and rely on the Carol’s Daughter and Trader Joe’s mentioned above.]

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Deo, not B.O.

I wasn’t satisfied with my deodorant several years ago, so I decided to shop around to find something that I liked. I started taking notes on what I tried, to keep track of things. I was thinking I’d just eventually post about the winning product, but then I decided to write about everything that I tried, because sometimes a negative review is just as useful as a positive one. I mean, an experiment that gives you a negative result should be published just so that others don’t waste time and money trying it too, right? So in that spirit, I’ve got a whole bunch of deodorant reviews listed alphabetically by brand below (and maybe people will land on this post looking for keywords, so that will help them too); if you’re thinking “TL;DR” then skip right down to Native or Thai Crystal.
[Update, March 2019: See also Lumē!]
[Update, September 2020: See Lumē again, as well as Ban!]
[Update, August 2021: Ivory and Each & Every.]
[Update, August 2022: Carpe and Carpe Sensitive.]

First, some vocabulary. A deodorant is meant to prevent bad smells (the B.O. of my title), while an antiperspirant prevents wetness. Antiperspirants tend to be more irritating and should not be used if you have skin abrasions, for example from shaving. Deodorants are considered cosmetics and are not subject to many regulations; antiperspirants are subject to strict regulations only if they are considered medication (if they are meant to last longer than 24 hours or to treat hyperhidrosis).

A note on ingredients... I had a paper article from an old issue of Protégez-Vous (March 2009, available here if you have a subscription) and I figured I’d sum up what they said about various ingredients, because it’s a reliable source.
- Aluminum salts have not been proven to be harmful in topical use in humans (according to the Canadian Cancer Society), though many doctors still urge caution – these are used in some antiperspirants, not deodorants.
- Parabens are suspected of disrupting the endocrine system; Protégez-Vous recommends avoiding them.
- Phthalates can hide in fragrances and are not labelled (however, it seems the harmful ones are mostly in plastic); some doctors recommend caution, especially for pregnant women or for those with sensitive skin.
- Alcohol can be irritating.
Almost 90% of the 10.500 ingredients used in cosmetics in the U.S. have not been evaluated for toxicity, and companies are not required to give toxicology data before selling their products. Moreover, the cocktail effect hasn’t been studied. To be on the safe side, Protégez-Vous recommends using products labelled “Eco-Cert”, which are at least 95% organic, not tested on animals, biodegradable, contain no fragrances or dyes, and have no ingredients derived from petroleum.

In another publication, in an article titled What’s so bad about antiperspirant?, the author says that aluminum was thought to be associated with Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, but the data are inconclusive. And fragrance, which is a proprietary blend of ingredients, can irritate.

A more recent article from Science-Based Medicine concludes that “although it’s possible that there is a link between antiperspirants and cancer, current existing evidence doesn’t support one and doesn’t even suggest potentially-fruitful avenues of research.”

The American Cancer Society also says “there is no convincing evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant increases cancer risk.” This page on WebMD essentially says that while it’s fine to be cautious, you probably shouldn’t worry about the ingredients in your antiperspirant or deodorant.

Based on all that, I acknowledge that I shouldn’t dismiss products that contain aluminum, so there are some below; however, the products I preferred happened not to contain any. Personally, I am looking for an everyday deodorant, because it’s the smell that bothers me, not the wetness. I felt that my criteria were simple, but even with my favorite deodorants, I still had to compromise: 1) I’d rather not have white streaks or stains on my clothes; 2) I do not want irritated skin; and 3) I need protection from B.O. that lasts all day. (For me, this means 12 hours. If it lasts 24 hours, great. I don’t need 48-hour or even 72-hour protection, thank you very much.) To this I’ve had to add: 4) I need something either unscented or with a mild, pleasant-to-me scent, otherwise I’m miserable.

Also, because I know it can make a difference: a) the skin of my armpits is smooth; b) I take a shower in the evening and apply deodorant before putting on my pajamas, and then again in the morning before getting dressed. And yes, I read the instructions, which can be surprisingly different depending on the product.

I currently have a deodorant that I really like (Native, see below), even though it can leave some white residue on dark clothes, but it’s really the best at preventing B.O.! It was actually a last-ditch effort on my part to try one last thing before resorting to homemade deodorants… Here’s a list of what I tried, with notes on each, because my criteria can be different from yours and something else might work for you – or this list might prevent you from wasting money on something useless.

- [Update, September 2020. Ban Invisible Solid Antiperspirant: I tried the Sweet Simplicity scent (I think I detect some apricot in there?) which, while not being my favorite, is faint enough that it doesn’t bother me. It does go on clear, which is fantastic, but more importantly, IT WORKS. Gets me through the day, including a workout, and doesn’t hurt my skin. I’m going to buy Unscented next. (Note that this is an antiperspirant containing aluminum.)]

- Bubble & Bee Organic Deodorant Spray in Lemongrass and Rosemary: This smelled absolutely fantastic. There was a slight stinging sensation as I applied it, but it didn’t last. Unfortunately, neither did the deodorant: after applying it in the morning, I didn’t make it to mid-afternoon without odor, and the high that day was only in the low 70s. The instructions do say to reapply as needed, but application isn’t convenient (even just one spray produces enough liquid that it will run down your arm or torso), and anyway, I don’t want to have to reapply during the day. I now think that any instructions that say “reapply as needed” are a dead give-away that one application won’t cut it!

- Bubble & Bee Pit Putty Organic Deodorant in Almond Coconut, meant for sensitive skin. I tried the stick form. This seemed promising, because in addition to the coconut oil, there’s arrowroot powder for wetness protection, and baking soda as an odor-blocker and pH-raiser. The smell was a bit strong, but pleasant. It might leave a bit of white residue on clothes, but I found that this disappeared in the wash without a problem. It was weird to apply, though, as the crumbly consistency means that you can’t just swipe it on, you actually have to rub it in and wait for your body heat to melt it a bit Moreover, it didn’t cut it on a day when the weather was in the low 80s, so in South Texas, this just isn’t going to work.

- Byly Fresh deodorant: This does not irritate my skin and mostly works against the smell. It’s aluminum-free and does not leave any white streaks. The odd thing is, though, that it’s like rubbing a bar of Irish Spring against my armpits – the fragrance is identical! I’m not crazy about it for that reason (and the fact that it’s not 100% effective against smell).

- Carpe Antiperspirant Underarm Lotion: I first tried the Eucalyptus scent. It smells good and really works, but I got a painful rash and had to stop using it. Their customer service is great, though – not only did they give me a full refund, but they even sent me one of their unscented lotions for sensitive skin! So I tried that (after giving my skin a rest), but after several days, it became clear that I couldn’t handle it – I periodically got the sensation of being stabbed by needles.

- Clean deodorant in Warm Cotton sounded like a neat idea in theory – cotton to absorb moisture! But the smell is a bit strong, the deodorant itself streaks and leaves white pills in armpits, and it doesn’t prevent the smell or moisture adequately. So that’s out.

- The most mainstream deodorant I tried was Degree Expert Protection with Motionsense, in Cotton Fresh and Active Clean scents. Only $4! It’s an antiperspirant and deodorant stick, which is supposed to kick in when you move, before moisture appears. I have to say, it works on that front, I had no B.O. My main issue with it is its fragrance – it’s horribly artificial and smells to me like cheap perfume, to the point where I can’t stand wearing it. Also, it claims 48-hour protection, which is more than I’d need, but does not even deliver 24 hours. I’m too turned off to buy more sticks in different scents on the off-chance there’s one I’d like. Despite its claim to be invisible, it does leave a white perfumed residue on clothes, and the only way to get rid of it is by hand-washing and paying extra attention to the pit area (just washing your top in the laundry as usual won’t do it). Because of the strong fragrance and white residue, I don’t like this one.

- Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Deodorant (with Lavender Oil; Aluminum-Free) smells fantastic, goes on clear, and has a pleasant consistency, but is just not strong enough. The last time I wore it, I was indoors all day going about my business (i.e., nothing strenuous), and the air conditioning was set in the upper 70s. The deodorant failed before lunch. Enough said.

- Dove Advanced Care Cool Essentials Antiperspirant: Well, on the bright side, it goes on without white streaks and is gentle on skin (it contains 25% moisturizers). That being said, I’ll never know how long protection really lasts, because I couldn’t stand the smell of the fragrance (which smells nothing like the cucumber OR green tea they promise) for more than a few hours.

- Dr. Hauschka Roll-On Deodorant: I tried both Rose and Sage Mint, and I really love both scents. These are gentle and non-irritating, and I like the natural ingredients. They mostly work on B.O. – I’d say 80% of the time, I’m fine. The thing is, though, that they’re $25 each in Canada (a jar lasts about 3 months). If they worked 100% of the time against B.O., that would meet all my criteria and I’d gladly pay the price, but I feel like it’s a bit steep for something that may not work against the smell when I need it.

- Druide roll-on deodorant: Sadly, this really irritated my skin and I had to stop using it.

- [Update, September 2020. Drunk Elephant Sweet Pitti Deodorant: It’s a very gentle cream, and I love the smell of it – sweet almond oil. It dries to almost clear and is pretty effective (again, I apply once after I shower in the evening and once before getting dressed in the morning), but it has let me down once, so I don’t think I’ll buy it again. Is it realistic to have a zero-tolerance policy with deodorants?]

- [Update, August 2021. Each & Every Deodorant in Lavender-Lemon: This has the most fabulous smell! It doesn’t irritate my skin and is pretty efficient. What I loved most is that the company also sells a customizable package of 4 minis, which is essentially a flight of deodorants! I also tried coconut-lime (smelled a bit like buttermilk to me and I didn’t like it as much as I thought); cardamom-ginger (the ginger was very strong and it reminded me of the holidays a bit); citrus-vetiver (smelled like an orange creamsicle and I didn’t really like it); and rose-vanilla (lovely!). They also come in an in-between travel size. I like keeping this one around.]

- Earth Science Natural Deodorant in Mint Rosemary: It smells good, and it mostly works, but it’s a little hard and chalky. I ended up not liking it.

- [Update, August 2021. Ivory Gentle Deodorant in Hint of Lavender: This claims 24-hour odor protection. I like that it didn’t irritate my skin and was invisible on clothes. It works pretty well; however, the fragrance is very strong, and it’s nothing like lavender! It’s actually something that I associate with men’s cologne – I never felt like “me” when I was wearing it, so I stopped.]

- Jāsön Soothing Aloe Vera Deodorant Stick: Another one of those natural and organic brands. This one was stiff and hard to apply, and the smell that emanated from me on hot days was more reminiscent of old clothes that have been in a drawer for a while than of actual body odor. Still, I’m not crazy about it.

- Kai deodorant was my favorite for a short while. It contains vitamin E and chamomile extracts and is great on sensitive skin. It comes in a clear stick, so it doesn’t pill in armpits and doesn’t streak clothing. Plus, I really like the gardenia scent, even though I usually prefer something less sweet. However, it costs $24.00 (though it should last a long time), and it doesn’t always take care of the smell. To tell you the truth, it’s about on par with Dr. Hauschka, but I was enjoying the latter more.
[Update: I stopped using it a while, and it’s like the stick started to sweat and a bunch of liquid came out of the bottom, making a mess. Out it goes. (See Origins No Offense below for a similar deodorant that doesn’t liquefy.)]

- Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant is something I really wanted to love, even though it’s an antiperspirant. It’s an unscented cream and, FYI, specifically says it’s fine to use on hairy armpits. I feel like I had to use it several days in a row before it kicked in, but even then, it didn’t offer the 24-hour protection it claimed, and my skin started itching after roughly two weeks.

- Kiss My Face Active Life, Aluminum-Free, in Lavender: It has a clean, pleasant lavender scent and does not irritate, but despite the “Clinically proven all-day protection” promise, it stops working in mid-afternoon. This is not because I’m in South Texas, because the same things happened on several consecutive days of 50s in the am and highs of 70s in the pm. So it’s not a keeper.

- [Update, March 2019. Kopari: I loved it at first. It’s very much like Origins and Kai, in that it’s a clear stick that goes on smooth and smells great. That being said, it let me down several hours into a day when I had two flights, so I soured on it.]

- Lafes Deodorant Roll-On, Unscented: I wanted to like this, because it’s natural and organic and unscented and all, but it irritated my skin badly and I had to throw it out.

- LaVanila – The Healthy Deodorant in Vanilla Grapefruit: This was highly recommended in two publications, so I tried it. Unfortunately, just the process of applying it gave me a rash, and it didn’t protect from odor beyond a few hours, so this isn’t for me.

- [Update, March 2019. Lumē: This is my current deodorant. It’s a creamy lotion which is dispensed from a stick – you have to rub it into your skin, and a little goes a really long way. It didn’t irritate my skin, I haven’t noticed any stains on my clothes (though I let it dry a bit before putting on a shirt) and so far, I haven’t had any unpleasant smells! I bought the lavender and clary sage product, which actually has a very subtle smell, but there’s also an unscented option. It’s aluminum-free, baking soda-free, and vegan. Apparently it’s also safe for other body parts, but I haven’t tested that!]
[Update, September 2020: I’ve stopped wearing it on a daily basis because it turns out it does leave a white residue my clothes. That being said, it’s gentle on my skin and is *great* at eliminating odor! I’ve tried the unscented version as well as the lavender-sage one, and I love both; I also tried the jasmine fragrance, and it smells a bit like a high-end moisturizer, but I prefer the lavender scent. My beef with the packaging is that it’s hard to see when you’re running low, unless you completely remove the wrapping from the stick. I’ve actually decided to order an assortment of their small tube format because I’d like something I can take with me in a carry-on on a plane, in case I get stranded overnight as was the case last time I flew. They also now offer deodorant wipes. Lumē is currently one of my favorite products based on its efficacy, so I’ve partnered with them – if you order some with this link, you will be automatically entered in a free product giveaway *every week*!]

- NANI Naturals’ Unscented Natural Deodorant: This self-proclaimed unisex product is pretty good. It is solid and needs to warm up a bit before you can apply it properly, but I just hold it against my skin for a few second before swiping. It contains things like coconut oil, red palm oil, baking soda, and Kaolin clay. So far, it’s working relatively well – though nothing to write home about – with highs in the 90s. It does, however, leave a residue on clothes. (This deodorant is slightly cheaper on Amazon than on its own website.)
[Update: I think I have coconut oil stains on a pajama t-shirt and yellowish clay or a wax-like substance on two other tops of different colors; none of it goes away in the laundry, I have to treat the stains separately. I don’t have time for this, especially oil stains.]

- Native Deodorant in Coconut and Vanilla (their most popular scent). This is my current go-to! The fragrance is pleasant and it’s completely kept odors at bay so far (though, to be fair, I haven’t worn it in Texas yet, but we did have some very hot days here in Montreal with the humidex factor, close to 100 °F). It leaves a bit of a white residue on dark clothes, but doesn’t irritate my skin at all. (It’s aluminum-free, for those who care.)
[Update, Nov. 2017: I’ve now had a rash with this, so I laid off deodorant at night for a while and used Thai Crystal, and things went back to normal. I’m now alternating between Thai Crystal and Native Deodorant.]

- Nature’s Gate Deodorant Stick (Clear Formula) in Spring Fresh Scent is natural, gentle, and doesn’t leave any white streaks. However, two caveats: 1) I smelled something like 10 fragrances in the store display and it is the only one I could even stand; 2) it doesn’t always fight odor all day.

- Origins No Offense: This reminds me of Kai in that it’s also a stiff, round stick that goes on clear and smells good. But like Kai, it’s also not quite sufficient to prevent odor for me. That being said, it never liquefied like Kai did, and it’s slightly cheaper, so I’d recommend it instead.

- Queen Helene Aloe Vera Deodorant: This claimed “all-day strength”, but it only worked about 90% of the time and it gave me a rash. (The label also said “new & improved”, “natural odor protection”, and “clinical results”, if that is any help finding it or making up your mind.) It’s possible the rash was from the fragrance instead of the active ingredients, and it did get better with time, but still wasn’t making me happy.

- Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant in Rose + Vanilla: I *really* wanted to like this, because it has “good” ingredients, claims to fight both odor and wetness, and smells fantastic. Sadly, within 24 hours, I had a rash, so it’s not for me.

- [Update, September 2020. Secret Aluminum-Free Deodorant in Rosewater: I couldn’t remember why I was shunning mainstream brands, so I gave this a try. It smells nothing like rosewater or even roses, and I dislike the fragrance (though it was better than Daylily, which I smelled in the store, and luckily it fades after a while). It’s a gel that goes on clear, which is great, but was not at all reliable getting me through the day without B.O., so I’m tossing it. When I complained to the company, they sent me a coupon for a free product, so I bought the unscented Secret Outlast below.]

- Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant and Deodorant (Smooth Solid), Hypoallergenic: This is what I wore on my wedding day, and it did not last past dinner. Is it fair to judge an antiperspirant on that day, though? I eventually used up the whole thing, but was never truly satisfied with it. I mean, if you’re going to be calling it “clinical strength”, you’d better deliver, and I feel like it didn’t.

- [Update, September 2020. Secret Outlast Xtend Deodorant in Unscented: I got this one for free (see Secret Aluminum-Free above) and chose the unscented version. I hoped that a deodorant with aluminum would be stronger, and it claimed to offer 48-hour protection. Well, nope. The gel goes on clear and it is indeed unscented, and I might keep it around for when I need something that won’t smear on my clothes (like if I’m wearing a sleeveless black top on date night, for example). But it often does not get me through the day, and *never* gets me through a 30-minute workout, so that’s really disappointing.]

- Thai Crystal Deodorant Stone is unscented and hypoallergenic (and also comes in a spray). This worked really well for a few years, and I thought I had found something with which I would stick (no pun intended). It’s inexpensive and the stone lasts a really long time, too! Unfortunately, it eventually started irritating my skin (after 2 or 3 stones), and doesn’t work all the time against B.O. The Engineer had the same issue with the spray form. I wonder if this is just a normal issue with any product, that one’s body eventually gets too used to it and it stops working… (To get ahead of any questions, I read that crystal deodorants work by tightening pores and prevent the formation of bacteria which, in turn, cause unpleasant smells).
[Correction: The Engineer says that his skin irritation had nothing to do with the deodorant after all and has gone away completely. He’s fully satisfied with it.]

- Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant in Unscented: This gave me a rash very quickly, so I stopped using it.

- [Update, September 2020. Yes to Charcoal in Lavender: I really liked this at first, because I love the fragrance (real lavender, as opposed to anything smelling artificial or perfumey), it goes on clear, and it protects well against odor. However, I got a rash using it (I stopped using it long enough for the rash to go away, then started using it again and the rash returned), so it’s not for me.]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Creamy Pasta with Bacon, Peas, and Mint

I wanted an easy recipe for dinner, but I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that I had access to lactose-free cream. Enter this recipe from Not Without Salt, which is perfect for late spring, with its abundant peas and mint. The quantities below are mine, because I wanted a greater yield, but this is highly adaptable. Enjoy!

16 oz. spaghetti (I used linguine or fettucine, I can’t remember)
8-12 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup lactose-free cream
1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan
¾ cup mint leaves
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water, making sure to reserve some water when you drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, sauté the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain off the bacon grease (save it for your eggs or pancakes in the morning, for example, or for roasting potatoes) before adding in the peas. Sauté until just warmed through, then stir in the cream. Add the pasta along with a splash of pasta water and toss the pasta around in the sauce. Simmer gently until the sauce coats the pasta. Stir in a pinch of salt and a good bit of freshly cracked pepper. Add more pasta water as needed. Stir in half of the grated Parmesan.

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish, then tear the mint leaves over top. Finish with the remaining parmesan.

Beauty product recommendations

I started this post ages ago and now realize that I have a lot to say about hair products these days, so that’ll be a separate post. In the meantime, here’s a post about recommendations for beauty products. Note that some (not all) of the links are affiliate links, which means that as long as my Amazon store stays online, if you make a purchase using that link, I might get a discount on my next purchase (not cash back). I wouldn’t recommend products that I don’t love myself, and I tested all these products with my own money. All opinions are mine.

Sandal season is upon us, which means there’s more pressure to have my feet looking good if everyone is going to be seeing them. I like giving my toenails a coat of clear polish, but beyond that, my problem area is my heels, which have a lot of unattractive dry skin on them. I tend to use a pumice stone, but that’s not ideal. I find it doesn’t scrape away all that I would want it to, and it sometimes hurts my heels even when there’s plenty of dead skin left. What ended up making a bigger difference than the pumice stone was actually a moisturizer, more specifically Curel Rough Skin Rescue, which is almost miraculous in its foot-moisturizing properties! I actually found that after one application, I had softer skin than when I only use a pumice stone; applying it several nights in a row works wonders.

That being said, I absolutely have to tell you about the best way I’ve found to physically get rid of the dead skin. The best foot exfoliant I’ve ever tried is BabyFoot Deep Exfoliation for Feet Peel. Caveats: because of certain essential oils in the product, it is counter-indicated if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (and is also counter-indicated if you suffer from diabetes), so I haven’t been able to use it in a while. In a nutshell: soak your feet 30 minutes in warm water, then dry them. Put on the BabyFoot booties (which are filled with gel) and keep them on for 1 hour, then wash your feet with soap and water and soak them again for 30 minutes. (All this soaking time really makes a difference when using the product, according to Amazon reviews. I did this in front of the television in the evening.) The smell of lavender was lovely, but I admit I didn’t notice anything immediately and was wondering whether it was a scam. After one week, however, the dead skin on my feet started to peel off, and continued to peel for a week. After that, I had the smoothest, softest feet ever! It was not only more effortless than a pumice stone, but it worked better, too! You can watch a promotional video here, but the (affiliate) Amazon link I gave you lists a better price for the kit.

I hadn’t spoken about it before on this space, but I had a bout of PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) (also called PUPPS by some) during my second trimester. [Pour les francophones, selon ce que je trouve ici et ici, il s’agit d’un type d’urticaire de grossesse nommé dermatite polymorphe gravidique.] It wasn’t typical in that it was early – onset at 18 weeks, whereas the average is 35 weeks – and symptoms disappeared after a month, though it took another week or so to heal. My OB said my guess was as good as his, but I wonder whether 4 weeks would be the rough duration of most bouts of PUPPP, since it usually disappears after delivery, and labor is often induced early to relieve the mother. In any event, I wanted to share the things that helped with the intense itching: I used hydrocortisone cream mixed with an emollient (to stretch it further) for immediate relief, but I also really liked a soap bar with pine tar and oatmeal, which really made a difference (it worked better than my usual Ivory bar in the circumstances). I also had prescription hydroxyzine (an anti-histamine), which was a blessing in disguise because it helped me sleep so much better at night! I remember being awake several hours each night in my first pregnancy, and I did wake up a lot more when I forgot to take the medicine before bed, so at least that part was awesome.

I’ve had trouble finding good sunscreen. Most of them are uncomfortable to me, leaving me feeling sticky or covered in white residue. I do have a good moisturizer with SPF 15, but with my skin, that isn’t enough to act as an actual sunscreen. However, I now love Ombrelle Ultra Light Advanced Weightless Body Lotion in SPF 50+. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, it is odorless and hypoallergenic, and most importantly, it absorbs so well that I actually forget I’m wearing it.

I’ve also found new moisturizers that I like. I still use (and love!) the Hand and Elbow Moisturizer by Yes to Carrots, but I’ve more recently started using Moroccanoil Hand Cream in Fleur d’Oranger on my hands and Moroccanoil Body Soufflé in Fleur de Rose on my body. They smell divine! (When the weather gets really cold and dry, though, or when I have to wash my hands a lot, I find that I need something stronger, like Eucerin or Aquaphor or even Triple Cream.)

Stay tuned for posts about deodorants and hair products!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pain aux mûres et au chocolat, crumble à la cardamome

Une troisième recette des Pâtisseries de Rose Madeleine (les deux premières sont ici et ). Celle-ci, je l’ai faite pour déjeuner, et c’était vraiment délicieux! Je pense que ce serait également excellent avec des framboises et du chocolat blanc, ou même sans le crumble. Ma mère l’aurait préféré sans cannelle, et on peut bien sûr varier la sorte de thé…

Pour le crumble à la cardamome
45 g. (¼ tasse) de farine tout usage
65 g. (¼ tasse) de cassonade
2 c. à thé de cardamome moulue
2 c. à soupe d’huile de noix de coco fondue

Pour le pain aux mûres et au chocolat

405 g. (2 ½ tasses) de farine tout usage
2 c. à thé de poudre à pâte
½ c. à thé de bicarbonate de soude
1 c. à thé de cannelle moulue
1 c. à thé de cardamome moulue
½ c. à thé de sel
1 c. à thé de vanille
3 c. à thé de thé Earl Grey moulu
1 ½ tasse de compote de pommes
¾ tasse de sucre de canne
½ tasse de lait de coco
½ tasse d’huile végétale
140 g. (1 tasse) de pépites de chocolat mi-sucré
145 g. (1 tasse) de mûres congelées

Pour le crumble à la cardamome
Dans un petit bol, mélanger tous les ingrédients du crumble jusqu’à l’obtention d’une texture granuleuse. Réserver à température ambiante.

Pour le pain aux mûres et à la cardamome
Préchauffer le four à 350 °F. Huiler un moule à pain de 9"x5" et le tapisser de papier parchemin.

Dans un grand bol, mélanger la farine, la poudre à pâte, le bicarbonate de soude, la cannelle, la cardamome et le sel.

Dans un autre bol, mélanger la vanille, le thé, la compote, le sucre, le lait de coco, l’huile végétale et les pépites de chocolat. Verser ce mélange humide dans les ingrédients secs et mélanger juste assez pour que la pâte soit homogène.

Verser la pâte dans le moule préparé. Couvrir de mûres et du crumble réserver. Cuire au four de 55 à 60 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’un cure-dents inséré au centre du pain en ressorte propre. Laisser refroidir complètement avant de démouler.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Two-Potato Gratin

This recipe would work well in the winter, but in the first cold days of June in Montreal, it was equally welcome! It calls for half-and-half, so I used half lactose-free milk and half lactose-free cream (you could consider using coconut milk instead of the cream). My mother sliced the potatoes by hand to help me out, though you could use a mandolin if you’re more comfortable with that. I served it with blueberry and green tea duck sausages and cranberry maple sausages (they were both good, but the latter my favorite; the Engineer preferred the former).

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8” thick
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8” thick
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¾ cup lactose-free milk
¾ cup lactose-free cream
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you wish)
1 ½ cups grated lactose-free gruyere

Preheat oven to 425 °F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Grease a 3-quart shallow baking dish.

Combine the sage and thyme in a small bowl.

In the baking dish, layer 1/3 of the potatoes and 1/3 of the sweet potatoes, alternating the slices. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the herb mixture and 1/3 each of the salt and pepper. Repeat layering to use up all the ingredients.

Combine milk, cream and broth and pour over the potatoes. Place dish on the baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 50 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Raspberry Weeknight Cake

I made two recipes with raspberries before leaving San Antonio, in order to empty the freezer a bit (we had most of a bag of frozen raspberries to use up). The first was raspberry and cookie butter baked oatmeal and it was surprisingly mediocre. The second, however, was a “buttermilk” raspberry weeknight cake to die for! It was moist and had the perfect crumb. I topped it with a glaze made with powdered sugar and coconut milk (essentially whisking coconut milk into 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until reaching the desired consistency). The Engineer had seconds and said he would be all over that had it been made with another fruit, since he’s not fond of raspberries. I think blueberries would be delicious, too.

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free is okay here; I used all-purpose white wheat flour)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum (only if you are using gluten-free flour that would benefit from the addition)
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup raspberries or other fresh fruit
powdered sugar or glaze, for serving (see above)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 °F. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk and the vinegar and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum (if using), and salt. Make a well in the center and add the coconut oil, vanilla, and coconut milk mixture. Stir until smooth dough forms with no dry bits of flour. Gently fold in the raspberries (don't worry if they break apart).

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and gently smooth it to the edges of the pan. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, then invert it onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar or spread with icing and serve.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Odds and ends

We made it up to Quebec again this year, and somehow I’m always busier on vacation than in “real life”, so I end up posting less. But all is well, and the trip up was remarkably easy, given the ages of our kids. We made a quick stop at Nick’s BarBQ and Catfish in Carlisle, Arkansas – we had stopped there on our first drive down, and the fried green tomatoes were still just as good. This year, I particularly liked New York State, as we stopped near a beautiful lake in Chautauqua and it was the most restorative rest area ever. Plus, the next day, we had lunch at DB’s Drive-In in Weedsport – the burgers were mediocre, BUT they had lactose-free vanilla ice cream! I was actually able to eat ice cream in a sprinkle-covered cone! Granted, it was only one flavor among 3 dozen or so, but it absolutely made my day.

So, here’s a round-up of recipes I tried without posting about them. Some were a little underwhelming, like sunflower seed pesto or these cretons (though, to be fair, I didn’t have salted herbs and may have ended up under-seasoning the whole thing). But I also made onion-thyme jam, which was fantastic in burgers (along with storebought bacon jam). In that photo, they are next to quick pickled onions, which were also very good – I used them in salads and sandwiches, and they kept well in the fridge for a few weeks.

Salads are a good way to make a quick meal, too. I liked a carrot and pesto salad inspired by this post, but I’d caution you to make sure your pesto is really flavorful, otherwise it’s not worth it. I’d throw in some roasted pine nuts to make things more interesting next time.

For an easy meal, I was also inspired by a pin I found online – the link was broken, but the picture and description were clear enough to allow me to make a delicious salad with lettuce, chicken, bacon, sweet onion, corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and a honey-mustard dressing. Delish!

There was a fattoush salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, mint and pomegranate arils, and sumac of course, but the takeaway was the baked pita chips: I tossed pita squares with olive oil, salt, za’atar and sumac and baked them at 300 °F for 10 minutes. Heaven! Those would work in many other salads too, or just as a snack.

I also like tuna salads when they have enough interesting ingredients to complement the tuna (or perhaps I should say: I like tuna salad in sandwiches, for example, and salads with tuna as stand-alone dishes). There are great ideas here, though one of my favorite ways to use it (and I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this before) was based on a friend’s Facebook post. Obviously, this is highly adaptable (it’s a salad, not rocket surgery), but my version had a mix of green and red lettuces, raspberries, avocado, tuna, lactose-free goat cheese, chickpeas, and a dressing that was either lemon or mustard, depending on my mood. Perfect for summer!