Tibault & Toad

Posts from April 2012

homemade coconut milk

Hardly anything is really from scratch these days. I've made recipes that call for coconut milk so many times, and without even thinking about it I dutifully grab the can opener and open up a can. That's where coconut milk comes from. . . right? Cans?

Canned coconut milk is convenient, but like all convenient things, it comes with a cost, both the actual cost (a can of Thai Kitchen coconut milk runs about $2.50, and a package of Bob's Red Mill shredded coconut runs about $3.50; two coconuts are $2 total), and the fact that store-bought products are not as fresh, and canned products are heated (killing natural enzymes/vitamins) and usually lined with bpa. Not to mention that learning how to make the basics yourself is super rewarding.

These directions are based on the ones found in Nourishing Traditions. You'll need two coconuts, and it yields a pint jar of coconut milk and a quart jar of dried, sweetened coconut meat.

Use a screw driver and hammer to poke two holes in the end of the coconut, then let the water drain out.

Place coconuts in a 350 degree oven until they crack (takes about 10 minutes - one made an audible cracking noise, the other was silent, so check the coconuts every few minutes for cracks).

Then you need to remove the outer husk. One coconut came out easily, then other one we had to break into chunks and use a sharp knife to pry out the meat.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the brown inner skin, wash clean with water, and then chop into smaller pieces.

Process in the food processer until pieces are about pea sized, then add 1 cup warm water and process until nice and fluffy. If it seems so dry that it just flings to the top and stays there rather than turning over, add a tablespoon more of water at a time until it runs smoothly (it should NOT be watery, just very damp). 

Line a bowl with a clean kitchen towel and dump the coconut into the towel.

Then gather the four corners of the towel together and twist together tighter and tighter, simultaneously squeezing the juice out of the coconut meat with your other hand. Pour this into a clean mason jar and keep in the fridge for up to two days. This stuff is seriously delicious, I would drink it plain. Shake before using (it's normal for it to form a cream line, just like real milk).

Take the remaining coconut meat, mix well with 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup (why grade B? it's more nutrient rich than other grades of maple syrup, and generally less refined). 

Spread out on a cookie sheet lightly oiled with coconut oil, and dry out in a 150 dregree oven for about 12 hours (our oven only goes down to 170, so it only took about 8 hours). 

Store in an air-tight container at room temperature, or in the fridge or freezer.

It's delicious by itself, and it can also be sprinkled on yoghurt or oatmeal, or, of course, baked in macaroons (what do you think I did with it? :) ) 

 

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asparagus preserved three ways

It's the season for asparagus, which means you can get it local and it's packed full of nutrients and perfect for preserving. We got 6 bunches of it at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, so in addition to eating a lot of it, I've been canning, lactofermenting, and freezing. It is my goal this summer to get produce for preserving from the Farmer's Market every week, and hopefully share it here. I'm super excited for all the knowledge I hope to gain through this process, as well as the delicious and nutritious foods we'll have when winter rolls 'round.

Each of these three ways of preserving have their own pros and cons, which I'll detail quickly:

Canning: 

  • pros - canned goods stay good for a year, can be stored at room temperature (which frees up space in your fridge/freezer), and doesn't always require salt or whey
  • cons - requires an inital investment for equipment, sterilizes food which kills enzymes and some nutrients, requires heat energy

Loactofermenting:

  • pros - easier than canning (in my opinion), doesn't require any special equipment or energy, doesn't diminish the nutrient content of food, and is a source of probiotics
  • cons - food only lasts for 6 months (only 2 months if it is fruit), needs to be in cold storage (like a fridge or root cellar), lactofermented foods can be sort of an aquired taste, even fruit preserves require salt/whey

Freezing:

  • probably the easiest method, also does a good job of locking in nutrients, keeps food good up to a year (longer in a deep freezer)
  • takes up space in the freezer, foods have to be thawed

First up. . .

Canning

If you are not familiar with canning basics, check out this this link first. I used this recipe as a jumpoff point, with some slight tweaks. I used pint jars, added some dill, and used a mix of white wine and apple cider vinegar (because that's what I had). I got about 3 pint jars (I might have gotten 4, but I didn't prepare enough asparagus.)

Pickled Asparagus - 4 pints

  • 4 bunches of asparagus
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 lemon, scrubbed, sliced and deseeded
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 4 sprigs dill
  • 2.5 cups vinegar
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 2.5 teaspoons pickling salt

Prep hot water bath and sterilize jars for 10 minutes. Wash asparagus, and trim so that they fit in jars with 3/4 inch to spare. Put your lids in a few inches of water, heat to a boil, cover, and turn off burner. Add vinegar, water and salt to a pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, set your hot jars on a kitchen towel, add a clove of garlic, sprig of dill and teaspoon of mustard seed to each jar. Pack asparagus in tightly and slide two lemon slices down inside each jar.  Ladel the hot pickling solution into each jar leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Release any large trapped air bubbles with a plastic knife or chopstick. Wipe rim, place lid, screw on band until finger-tip tight. Lower the jars back into the water, wait until the water returns to a rapid boil, process for 10 minutes and then lift jars and place them on a cutting board or towel until they are completely cooled. Then unscrew bands, check seals, and store.

Lactofermenting

For the brine I used the dill pickle solution from Nourishing Traditions.

Lactofermented Pickled Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (it must be an unrefined sea salt such as Celtic, Himalayan pink salt, or Real Salt. If your "sea salt" is white, then its refined and devoid of the minerals that help the lactfermenting process work properly AND which help make you healthy, so you should switch anyways)
  • 4 tablespoons whey (or an additional tablespoon salt)
  • 1 cup filtered water (tap water contains chlorine, which inhibits the process)

Wash asparagus, trim and pack into a meticulously cleaned quart sized jar (I cut in half and use tops and stalks). Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir until the salt dissolves, or add to the jar and shake to thoroughly mix them. If necessary add extra water to entirely cover the asparagus. Then screw on the lid tightly and leave at room temperature for three days before moving to the fridge. The fermentation process produces a lot of gas, so I find it necessary to ever so gently break the seal on the lid by loosening the band once or twice a day to let the air out, and then quickly re-tighten. These will stay good in the fridge for 6 months.

Freezing

This one is very straightforward. Wash and trim asparagus, blanche for 30 seconds to one minute in boiling water, then plunge into an ice bath. Lay out on a kitchen towel until dry, then roll up in paper towel, place inside a feezer bag, roll air out of bag, seal and store.

So what about you guys? Anybody started their summer preserving yet?

 

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farmer’s market

(and a quick dessert idea)

This past Saturday was the first Farmer's Market of the year. We've been looking forward to it and talking about it for weeks, so even though it was pretty chilly we ventured out to get our hands on some much-awaited local produce.

We grabbed several bunches of asparagus for eating and preserving, spinach and romaine, onions, greenhouse tomatoes, and the first strawberries of the season from southern Illinois. I almost squealed with delight when I saw those strawberries, since I wasn't expecting any until at least May (no doubt we have that warm stretch in March to thank). I love strawberries, and local strawberries are nothing like those crunchy, pale grocery store strawberries; they are so sweet and red straight through to their core. 

They're delicious eaten plain, but throw in a little whipped cream and they're dessert.

Marscarpone cream dip

  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (preferably raw, but you can use Organic Valley, or even better Kalona SuperNatural if you can find it)
  • 4 oz. softened marscarpone cheese
  • Raw honey
  • Vanilla extract

Whip the cream with a drizzle of honey and a splash of vanilla, then gently fold in the marscarpone cheese. 

 

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no whey!

(Also: how to turn regular yoghurt into Greek yoghurt).

I love Greek yoghurt. Like oh my goodness yum. It's so thick and creamy. But I feel pretty silly buying Greek yoghurt at the store when we have access to raw milk yoghurt from grass-fed cows through the farm club we buy from. That yoghurt is a much more fluid yoghurt, but its easily thickened by doing a simple strain.

I simply placed a strainer in a large bowl, lined with a clean cloth napkin, filled it with yoghurt, and placed it in the fridge, covered with a plate, for several hours. The longer it strains, the thicker it becomes. Then I put it back in its mason jar and gave it a good stir. I like it with raw honey, cinnamon, and vanilla!

And that leftover liquid in the bowl? Beautiful raw whey, which we can use for lactofermentation (that post is coming soon!) If you decide to strain your yoghurt, don't waste that whey! It's useful and nutritious, so bottle it up and store it in your refrigerator. 

 

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cloth diapering 101

I get asked about cloth diapers a lot, so in honor of upcoming Earth Day, I decided to do a simple guide to cloth diapering. If you are interested in cloth diapering and have looked into them at all, you've probably become quickly overwhelmed. Modern cloth diapers have come a long way, and there are SO many options (all-in-ones, pocket diapers, fitteds, just to name a few), most of which we've tried. But I have found I like to stick with the tried and true; in the complicated world of modern cloth diapers, I like to keep it simple

So first off, why use cloth diapers?

  1. It's less wasteful.
  2. It's better for the environment.
  3. It's way easier on your wallet (it can easily save you well over $1000).
  4. You avoid chemical-laden disposables.
  5. They're better at preventing blowouts.
  6. They're cute!

When people ask what I recommend, I always say prefolds. These are the diapers our mothers would have used: a rectangle piece of cotton with a thicker layer of cotton down the middle. I recommend prefolds because:

  1. They are one of the least expensive options.
  2. They are versatile.
  3. They are the most durable diapering option.
  4. They are cotton (there are "fancier" natural fiber diapers out there nowadays, but they are expensive, and in my own experience I don't find them any easier to use than prefolds. If a cloth diaper doesn't specify that it is cotton, you can bet it is 100% polyester).

Why am I a stickler for cotton?

  1. Personally, I'm not gonna pass on disposables and then put my baby in synthetic polyester.
  2. Cotton is very forgiving: it is less likely to get buildup from detergent or rash creams and it is a breeze to wash, while other fabrics like polyester are more prone to buildup and therefore leaking, repelling, or what is referred to as "The Stinkies." If this happens, you'll have to "strip" your diapers (a frustrating practice now considered by many to be a normal part of the cloth diapering process, but which I'm not even going to go into here because prefolds virtually never need to be stripped if properly cared for).
  3. You don't need special cloth diaper detergent! Because they are cotton and wash easily, you can most likely use your favorite regular detergent with no problems!

Let's talk durability:

Just like your favorite pair of jeans, diapers won't last forever. Each component of a diaper will     eventually wear out, likely in this order: velcro, elastic, PUL (the water-proof outer fabric), and finally the absorbent parts. PUL has an average lifespan of only 120 washes! That's only a year of     washing every 3 days. But that is the glory of prefolds and covers! Prefolds will last and last. . . and last. . .many people diaper several children and then pass them on to family or friends or go on to use the diapers as dust rags for years beyond that. When my PUL covers wear out, I only have to replace 6-8 $12 covers, instead of my entire stash!

The brand of prefolds I recommend are called Imagine Smartfit, and you can get them at Nicki's Diapers (do NOT buy just any prefolds from big box stores. Gerber and other brands are flimsy peices of cotton with polyester batting sewn into the center. Only ever buy your prefolds from a place that specializes in cloth diapers). Unlike standard prefolds which only come in two sizes, smartfit prefolds come in 4 sizes and are cut shorter so that they fit baby better. Investing in 4 sizes of prefolds is slightly more expensive, but I think that in this case, the better fit is totally worth it. Nicki's Diapers is the absolute best price on sized prefolds, and they have some great diapering package deals. The choice between bleached and unbleached is really personal preference (don't worry, bleached prefolds are whitened with peroxide, not chlorine). I choose unbleached because I like the natural colour, and they hide stains a little bit better (if you can, spring for organic. They're only $3 more per dozen, and its worth it since cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops).

You can simply fold the prefold in thirds and lay it in the cover, or you can use a fancy little device called a Snappi to fasten around baby (no pins needed!) Laying in the cover can be faster, but using the Snappi holds in messes better.

Lay baby on the prefold with it at the line of her belly button, fold the bottom in thirds and bring up through baby's legs. Bring up one corner and hook with Snappi. . .

Then the other corner, then pull down and hook the center. Voila!

The next part of the system is covers.

No plastic pants here! The modernization of cloth diapers has brought us the wonderful gift of PUL. This is a soft fabric which is laminated with a thin layer of polyurethane to make it water-proof. My favorite cover is the Thirsties Duo Wrap. It comes in two sizes, both of which are adjustable via rise snaps on the front and come with velcro or snap closure (again, personal preference. We have velcro, and it is slightly faster and easier to use, but it wears out faster than snaps). As long as it doesn't get soiled, you can rotate between two covers in a day, leaving one to dry at each change.

These are both size one Duo Wraps, you can see the range in size. In my experience, these fit until about 15 lbs, and then the size two will fit until potty training.

Another option for covers are wool soakers. Wool is a magical fiber, and perfect for diaper covers: it's both water-resistant and very absorbent, it doesn't hold smells and therefore rarely needs to be washed (maybe once a month), and it's super breathable. We use wool at nighttime, and for rugging around the house. Wool can be very expensive, and it needs to be handwashed and lanolized (a process to replenish its natural, water-repelling oils), but you only need two or three, you don't need to wash them often, and if price is an issue you can make them pretty simply yourself by using this pattern and thrifted wool sweaters. 

Below is a Kissaluvs, and one I made myself.

To answer the age old question "what do I do with the poop"? I would first like to dispell the myth that you can avoid dealing with poop by using disposables. Are you a parent? Great. You're going to deal with poop, and since cloth contains messes better, you'll likely deal with fewer poopy clothes (plus, did you know that disposable diaper packages often have instructions on the side that direct you to dump poop into the toilet before throwing them away? That's because human waste shouldn't go to landfills, but rather through a water treatment facility). An exclusively breastfed baby has water soluble poop, which means it all goes straight into the diaper pail, nothing extra to do. Once you start solids, poop often rolls right off into the toilet, and if not, you've got options:

  1. Flushable liners (lay in diaper, catch poop, flush in toilet)
  2. Diaper sprayer (spray solids off)
  3. Diaper Duck (holds diaper for you while you dunk and swish)

Washing is easy:

  1. Before using cotton diapers for the first time, prep them by washing and drying them 3-6 times (6-10 times for unbleached) to remove all the natural waxes and make them soft and quilty.
  2. Put used diapers in a diaper pail (aka trash can) lined with a washable liner. Planetwise are my favorite brand, they are one of the only brands that have sealed seams, making them waterproof. 
  3. On wash day, dump diapers and pail liner into washing machine (you can wash your covers with your diapers too, but I wash covers with Indy's clothes in warm water instead, because it is gentler). Prewash diapers on warm with no detergent, and then do an extra heavy wash on hot with an extra rinse at the end. Then hang covers and pail liner to dry and throw diapers in the dryer on high heat. Done.
  4. Do NOT use bleach or fabric softener. And if your diapers get stains (which just comes with the territory), you can dry them in the sun (works like magic!!!!) or opt for an additive free oxygen bleach like Oxo Brite.

Here is the rundown of everything you will need to cloth diaper from birth to potty training and wash every two (or three) days:

  • Imagine Smartfit Prefolds: 24 x-small prefolds (36 to wash every three days, skip x-small entirely if you expect a big baby), 24 small prefolds (36 to wash every three days), 18 medium (24 to wash every three), 18 large (24 to wash every three).
  • Thirsties Duo Wrap covers: 6-8 size one, 4-6 size two
  • Two pail liners
  • Two or three wet bags (for storing used diapers while out and about), again, I recommend Planetwise.
  • 2-3 Snappis
  • 24-36 cloth wipes (if you're doing cloth diapers, you might as well. You'll save even more money and avoid more chemicals. Cheap baby wash cloths work great, just wet with water and an optional dot of baby soap.)
  • Detergent
  • Cloth diaper safe rash cream (we use California Baby, which can be found at Target).

I love talking diapers, so feel free to contact me with questions any time!

* some updates were made to this post on 12/15/12 to reflect new things I've discovered since originally writing it

 

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a theology of food

I've mentioned food a lot in terms of "philosophy." I think that's appropriate, since I think beliefs around food are based on knowledge and rationale, but I think it's more than that. I think it's connected to theology as well (before I proceed, let me give a disclaimer: I think that food has ties to some first tier issues of importance, but is itself only a second tier issue. It should be elevated only high enough that we begin to believe it matters, but not so high that it becomes divisive). Certainly, my personal journey surrounding food has been not only physical, but emotional, spiritual and ethical. I must insist that the beliefs I hold about food, just as the beliefs I hold about the value of farming and nature, are not in spite of the fact that I am a Christ-follower, but because of it. My theology has informed my beliefs, and I don't think that caring about food is simply a humanistic goal. I think it is one of the areas in which humanists have yet again shown up the Church when She should have been at the forefront. So why do I think it matters? Our church has a saying: "matter matters." It abolutely does. We most certainly live in a fallen world, and while I believe that The Fall affected every aspect of Creation, right down to the very atoms that compose it, I also absolutely believe that the death of Christ was for the redemption of every aspect ("For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." - Romans 8:19-22), and that the Church, and every member, are the instruments of redemption. In fact, if you don't think that matter matters, you might as well call yourself a Gnostic (a religious sect which believed that matter was evil, and therefore only the spiritual realm was of any significance, and which was denounced by the Apostle Paul and the early Church). Matter matters because it has spiritual and eternal significance, and because it, too, is being redeemed. 

So what does food have to do with all this? I don't want to eat well because I want to obtain perfect health or live forever (neither of which are even possible). I want to eat well because I believe the modern food system is a perversion of how God created and intended food to work with our body. I believe it abuses Creation in the form of nature, animals, and ourselves. Therefore I cannot with good conscience whole-heartedly support that system. It is often said that what is good for nature is good for us. Therefore we are endeavoring to eat foods that are as natural as possible; traditional foods prepared in traditional ways, produced through traditional farming and animal husbandry. In order to do this, we have to know where our food is coming from. The more we tamper with these things in some vain attempt to improve upon nature (through the skimming and pasteurization of milk, the addition of artificial ingredients, the genetic modification of plants, etc.), the more we suffer. 

It doesn't mean I will never ever drink a soda, or eat strawberries in the middle of January, or have the occasional Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cone. . . mmm. . . wait, where was I? Oh yes. It just means that I want the overwhelming majority of my dollars to support local farmers and food practices that are biblically and theologically sound, and which will nourish myself and my family so that we may effectively follow the plan that God has for us. It's not a boycott, because I think positively supporting the good in this case does more than withdrawing our dollars completely from the alternative (though I think that's a natural progression, and a noble eventual goal). I think the Church has subconsciously concluded that God doesn't care about this subject, or that it's really a matter of preference and is non-ethical. But I think the heart of God can be found here, that He cares, and that He has plans of redemption for this aspect of Creation as well, and that is a plan in which I want to participate. 

 

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real food: banana milkshake

Wow, its been a long time since I did a recipe post! We were sort of in transition for a while, in our food philosphies, and we've been adapting and learning how to cook in new ways, and I think I'm finally back to the place where I feel comfortable sharing some edible ideas. Unfortunately, I don't think I can totally stand behind most of the recipes I've shared in the past, though with slight ingredient tweaks most of them can be made Real Food compatible. We're slowly phasing pasteurized dairy and refined flours and sugars out of our diet, which eliminates most conventional desserts. Ever since being pregnant with Indy I have developed a serious sweet tooth, fortunately nature provides us with plenty of sweet treats which also happen to be good for us. When we first lessened our refined carbohydrate intake I seriously went through withdrawal. I did not realize how addicted I was! The good news is, my palate is adjusting, and I'm more and more satisfied with the sweetness provided by a drizzle of honey or a piece of fruit. Without further ado, here is one of the wholesome treats we've been enjoying recently:

Banana Milkshake:

  • one banana, peeled, wrapped in saran wrap, and frozen
  • unsweetened organic peanut butter (Whole Foods brand is soooo smooth and yummy)
  • organic virgin coconut oil (if you haven't jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon, JUMP, its so declicious and so good for you!)
  • raw, local honey
  • raw whole milk
  • real vanilla extract

* A word about honey. Why raw and local? Not only has raw honey been shown to have a lower glycemic index than pasteurized, but it also has amazing anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, and is full of beneficial enzymes and vitamins. Pasteurized honey is a dead food. Buying local honey can help with seasonal allergies, and also ensures you're getting the real deal (imported honey can sometimes be sketchy). You can find raw local honey on craigslist, at farmers markets, online, or even sometimes in endcaps at the grocery store. 

This recipe is completely adaptable to your own tastes. Feel free to leave out everything but the banana and milk, or use whichever ingredients you want in any combination. 

Break frozen banana into chunks and add to the blender. Add milk to cover, a drizzle of honey, a heaping spoonful of peanut butter, a couple of spoonfuls of coconut oil and a splash of vanilla. 

If you like a thick milkshake, use less milk. If you like it extra cold and icy, throw in a few ice cubes.

(Indy with a messy egg mouth and a battle wound from playing on Auntie Kate and Uncle Joel's back porch).

Indy knows exactly what I'm doing and is getting a little impatient.

A treat I can definitely feel good about giving her.

 

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matchy matchy

I never thought I'd be the sort of mom who would buy matching shoes for my daughter and myself (in fact. . . I probably swore it). But we think we know ourselves before we have kids. . . ha! Now I'm all "oh Indy! You match mommy! Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!" for like 10 minutes straight. How could I resist? Saltwater Sandals are so comfortable and cute and come in so many awesome colours! Indy's are a little big, but she'll grow into them. Like a weed, I suspect the warm weather will make her grow even faster, right?

 

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get real

Lest anyone ever think we have it all together over here at the Miller household (or think we think that), please behold my kitchen after a busy toddler had her way with it over Easter weekend.  Often we will have the house spotless by 11 p.m. on a given evening, and by the same time the next night it could look like this. How. . . does that happen? And to be fair, my house looks like the above photo much, much more often than it looks like this

And in this prevailing spirit of honesty, I might as well admit that, among other things. . .

  • On most days I wouldn't be able to tell you the last time Indy had a bath
  • We eat out a lot more, and eat much more junk than I would like
  • I spend way too much time on my computer, and not enough time reading and writing
  • Indy sometimes wears the same shirt for like four days straight (or sometimes she wears no clothes for like four days straight)
  • I'm much more prone to have a short temper and be harsh in my behavior towards Indy than I'd like to admit
  • I hardly ever wash our sheets (ew)
  • I often obsess over small things (like how spindly my seedlings are right now, please don't die)
  • There are dust bunnies the size of actual bunnies under our bed
  • I don't pray as much as I want or need to
  • I never clean the bathroom (Alan does it! Bless his heart!)

I think it's cathartic to acknowledge our weaknesses outright sometimes. It's like doing so turns them into stones that we can use to build a step to stand upon to climb past them (although I make no promises about the dust bunnies). Plus it just feels good to see someone else's kitchen looks like that sometimes too, doesn't it?

 

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naturally clean clothes

My initial foray into natural laundry products began when we were getting our cloth diapering goods before Indy was born. You can't use just any old laundry detergent on cloth diapers (many can cause irritation or leave buildup), and while researching detergents that work well for cloth diapers we stumbled upon soap nuts (by the way, this is not a sponsored post, Yoreganics is just my brand of choice because I think it's the most bang for your buck). Soap nuts, which are actually a dried berry from the soapberry tree of the Himalayn Mountains, have been used for washing for thousands of years, and they are truly amazing. I could go on and on about the benefits of soap nuts (antimicrobial, eco-friendly, cost-effective [at $40 for 340 loads that breaks down to about 12 cents a load!], gentle for sensitive skin), and the reasons to avoid conventional detergents and fabric softeners (toxic ingredients, a whole slew of negative health impacts, and a coating of nasty, waxy residue), but you can read more about all of that here. (P.s. don't assume that because you use a "free and clear" or "natural" product that you're safe from unfriendly chemicals - always check the ingredients). Anyways, after getting soap nuts for use with diapers, we started using them for all of our laundry, and haven't turned back since. In my experience, all you need in your laundry arsenal are three simple things: soap nuts, Yoreganics stain remover, and a sodium percarbonate/sodium carbonate product (this is powdered oxygen bleach, a combination of solid hydrogen peroxide and soda ash, which is natural, non-toxic, and non-polluting) such as Oxo Brite (Yoreganics makes one too, but its too pricey), but any powdered oxygen bleach works, just check the label to make sure it's additive free. 

Soap nuts are simple to use. You put five nuts in one of the little muslin bags that comes with every bag of soap nuts, tie it closed, and throw it in the washer. It doesn't need to come out after the wash cycle, it stays in through the whole cycle (it will naturally soften your clothes, too), and can even be tossed in with the clothes into the dryer. Five nuts will last about 4-6 washes, which depends mainly on water temperature: more in cooler water, less in hot. They work best in warm and hot water (cold water doesn't release the saponin from the shells very well), and for that reason while I still separate for colours, I wash all clothes in warm water and sheets/towels in hot. If you insist on using cold water, you can take your pick from several different brands of premade soap nut tea, or make it yourself. When wet, soap nuts have a sort of sweet, vinegary smell, but when clothes are dry they will smell like nothing but clean fabric. You can tell your soap nuts are spent by how they look. When new, they will be hard, thick, and shiny inside the shells. . .

When spent, they will be smaller, thin, papery and grey. . .

Toss or compost 'em, and refill your muslin bag.

If you're a fabric softener or dryer sheet junkie, consider wool dryer balls instead. They reduce static electricity, help soften clothing and speed drying time, but they're reusable and free of the chemicals normally found in dryer sheets. You can also put a few drops of your favorite essential oil (like lavender) or some vanilla extract if you miss scented laundry.

For treating fresh stains, I love Yoreganics stain remover (which smells like citrus and is made from saponified organic coconut, olive and jojoba oils, organic aloe vera, and an organic blend of essential oils and rosemary extract), and for stubborn and old stains, I fill a sink with steaming hot water and a couple of scoops of Oxo Brite, soak for a couple of hours, and wash like normal. 

That's it. Laundry simplified and detoxified. 

 

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