Tag Archives: Recipes

Homemade lip balms

24 Feb

Carlymau's Blog - home made lip balms

Over the last few years I’ve tried to get into the habit of making at least some, if not all, of the Christmas presents. Obviously this is easier for some friends and relatives than others, and it can be pretty time consuming if you choose the wrong thing to make.

A few years ago, I decided to make hats and scarves for everyone – never again! It took absolutely ages, and those people who had one of the last-made items had to contend with missed stitches and mismatched wool as I fought against that pesky 25th December deadline and dwindling yarn supplies. I’ve realised that if you’re going to make a lot of gifts, anything you can make in batches has gotta be a time-saver.

Last year, I made chutneys and painted plates, and then bought some cheese to make a little cheeseboard. Making chutney was lots of fun, the only problem I really came up against was how to get a  load of jam jars cheaply. I didn’t have time to save up enough jars from the kitchen, and buying new preserving jars was super expensive. I ended up buying 15 jars of  jam from the supermarket and tipping all the contents out into tupperware to be used later, as strangely it was the cheapest way – for at least 3 months afterwards, I was having jam with everything…”ooh, roast beef dinner, would you like some cherry jam with that?”, “why don’t we make ice cream sundaes with peach conserve topping!”, “you think this pasta sauce could handle a few spoons of marmalade?” etc. It was a trying time. This book came in handy.

So, I wasn’t going to fall for that trick again. Ever since, I’ve compulsively hoarded glass jars, ready for the next crafting spree.

This year, I decided to make lip balms. Can they be made in advance? Check. Can they be made in batches? Check. Do I have the right supplies? No, but I know where I can get them! Most importantly, do I have the right jars? Check!! I travel quite a bit for work, so I’m often eating a hotel breakfast. I had to revert to my excessive jam-consuming days of the previous year, to collect sufficient mini jam jars. Ok, so all the hotel staff thought I was a nut, but hey! I even manage to rope in a few colleagues to join me in the jamjar heist. I have since discovered that Morrisons sell individual mini preseves in their jams and baking products aisle, if anyone else is thinking of getting some.  But this definitely isn’t as much fun.

I checked out lots of tutorials online about making lip balms, but all the recipes differ and really you’re only going to find a mix that you like if you have a bit of a tinker with it. The key ingredients you need are:

DSCN1019Butter – This is the moisturising bit of the lip balm. There are lots of different butters, the main ones being shea butter and cocoa butter. You can get both of these as ‘refined’ or ‘unrefined’. Apparently unrefined has more of the goodness in it, but you should buy refined if you are making lip balms of a certain fragrance and don’t want it overpowered by the aroma of the butter. I’ve got both refined and unrefined cocoa butter, as sometimes you want something that smells super-chocolatey!

Carlymau's blog - homemade lip balmsOil – This is also a moisturising bit of the lip balm, and again there is a huge selection of oils that you can use. I bought some Sweet Almond oil, some Apricot oil and some coconut oil (which is a solid), but you can also use stuff from the kitchen – if you look on the side of any bought lip balm, you’ll see they contain everything from sunflower to canola to soybean oil. I had some walnut oil and sesame oil in the kitchen which could also be thrown into the mix, if desired. Obviously, this is mainly the liquid element of the lip balm, so if your finished product is too hard, melt it down again and add some more; if it’s too soft, add more of the butter and beeswax elements.

 

DSCN1020Beeswax – This locks all the moisture into your balm and gives it shine. A lot of the recipes I have seen use as much as one part beeswax to one part butter, whereas some don’t seem to use it at all. Personally, I’ve not put a lot of beeswax into the ones I’ve made, as in my opinion it makes them too hard (I might be wrong here).

 

Carlymau's blog - homemade lipbalmsEssential oils – As you can see from the picture, I got a little click-happy on Ebay and ended up buying a stack of them.   These create your flavour. I’m no aromatherapist, so I’m not really knowledgeable about what they all do, which flavours go together and how much to use of each etc. Most recipes suggest using one or two drops (depending on the batch size, of course) of two or three oils, and everyone out there will have their personal favourites. If you want to test flavours out beforehand, you will need to get yourself a little bowl or cup and put a bit of cold-pressed oil in it (e.g. olive oil) before dropping the oils in to test the combination. Oils smell differently once they’re in their carrier oil, so this is a more accurate way of testing than simply sniffing the top of the bottle or putting a drop on a sheet of kitchen roll. It’s also worth checking out the properties of the oil that you are buying before using it – for example, some are not recommended for pregnant women. These are powerful products and should be used carefully!

Colour – if you want, you can buy cosmetic grade powder to colour your lip balm, or you can do what I did and drop a centimetre or two of lipstick into the melting mix, which also does the trick and can be much cheaper.

I bought most of my ingredients from Fresh Skin UK, who are based in Nottingham. They’ve got an Ebay store here too.

Carlymau's blog - Mother Daughter Craft DayThis was a mother and daughter craft day!

This is a really simple craft. All you have to do is measure out the ingredients and melt them down in a bain marie. Pour them into what ever container you are planning to use, and let them set. That’s it!

The two I ended up making as Christmas presents were Spiced Oranges for the girls and Man Balm for the boys (boys get chapped lips too!).

Spiced Oranges lip balm

30g refined cocoa butter

30g shea butter

2 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp apricot oil

1 tsp beeswax

4 drops of sweet orange essential oil

4 drops of vanilla essence

2 drops of ginger esssential oil

2 drops of juniperberry essential oil

* this one is really lovely if you use unrefined cocoa butter too – the flavour is more like a Terry’s White Chocolate Orange (yum!)

Man Balm

50g refined cocoa butter

20g shea butter

3 tsp sweet almond oil

1/2 tsp beeswax

4 drops of ginger essential oil

4 drops of cypress essential oil

This was such a quick and easy craft that I don’t think I will ever go back to shop-bought lip balms. Since making these, I’ve been experimenting with tinted ones too.

If anyone out there has had success with their own concoctions, I’d be interested to know about it!

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Power Boost Flapjacks

13 Feb

I’ve been a bit under the weather recently and feeling quite sorry for myself. As a result, I’ve resorted to cooking and eating healthy but comforting meals and treats.

Today I made power boost flapjacks. Nutritious and delicious!DSCN1030

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Chai Hot Chocolate

4 Feb

I was battling through a five hour train journey from Farnborough to Doncaster recently, which included, much to my delight, 90 minutes of rail replacement bus service also. In these conditions, I thought it was only fair that I treated myself to an overpriced latte and flapjack from the posh coffee place at the station.

And it was there that I fell in love……chai latte. So creamy! So dreamy! My life has never been the same again.

Most days don’t contain the trials and tribulations of that train journey to condone me spending as much money on a coffee as I would spend on food for a whole day. Plus, coffee has a tendency to make me zing about so much that I give myself (and everyone else) a headache. However, I found this product in the supermarket, which has been answering my chai cravings whilst not caffeining me up too much. What I have discovered, is that when making a hot chocolate at home, if you use one spoonful of your hot choc mix, and one spoonful of the chai latte mix, the results are heaven in a mug.

And with that in mind, I thought I would have a go at making my very own chai hot choc mix! I’ve seen lots of great ideas on Pinterest (here, here and here) for either spiced hot chocolate, or chai tea mix, which I took ideas from.

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My experimenting supplies (banana not included)

Doncaster-20110809-00273I had to do a lot of tasting…it’s a tough life!

The recipe that ended up making me smile the most was the one below. If you plan on making your own, I would say it is defninitely worth making the base hot chocolate (milk powder, chocolate, icing sugar and cocoa) and then adding spices a bit at a time, until it tastes how you want. I love the taste of cardamom, so in the first batch I put a tsp of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in – it was like some awful, fragrant spice explosion. Lesson learned: some spices are stronger than others!

Ground cardamom is a) tough to get hold of, b) pretty expensive and c) not particularly good quality. If you can get cardamom pods, they’re much better. Most speciality food stores, supermarkets or delis should have them – I got a whole bag for £1.05 from the amazing deli counter in Doncaster market :)

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To prepare your own cardamom, toast a few pods in a pan, and then bash the pods to remove the shells. You’re then meant to grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar, but I don’t have one – a rolling pin worked fine! As soon as you remove the shells you’ll get a blast of the beautiful fragrance. It’s pretty powerful stuff though, so use in moderation. You can always add more if you want!

 

This recipe should make around 5 generous mugs of chai hot choc, depending on how you make it.

I also read in some recipes that you can cut an orange into slices, bake the slices on a low heat in the oven, and then use the dried orange flesh in a dry mix too. I would like to try making a hot chocolate orange at some point! I’ve also got some star anise I’d like to find a use for, which might go into the mix. I’d be interested to know if anyone else has found a successful combination!

Chai Hot Chocolate

2 tbsp skimmed milk powder

2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

3 tbsps vanilla icing sugar

5 tbsps good quality chocolate (I used 70% dark choc with cocoa nibs), ground to a fine powder.

¼ nut of nutmeg, grated

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ginger

¼ tsp freshly ground cardamom (seeds from approx. 4 cardamom pods, toasted and crushed)

½ tsp Darjeeling tea

1)      Toast your cardamom pods in a pan for a  few minutes. Bash them open and remove the shells. Grind the seeds up finely.

2)      Finely grate the chocolate.I put mine through the food processor, or you could do it by hand. Don’t worry too much about grating every last millimetre – the final mix will be sieved to remove any lumpy bits.

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3)      Measure all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly

4)      Pass the ingredients through a sieve to remove any larger particles. This should remove any bits of spice and chocolate which aren’t fully ground down.

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….and you’re done!

Mix 2 tbsps with a mug of warm milk or with hot water (2 parts milk to 1 part water tastes great) and enjoy. The dry mix will store for up to 3 months.

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Banana and Caramel Pecan French Toast

25 Jan

After being a bit under the weather and having a hankering for my mum’s bread and butter pudding, I sadly discovered I had no butter or raisins. Epic fail. However I trawled through Pinterest for a bit to get a few recipe ideas and came up with this instead. Of course, any rum or spirit would do, but I had my fave, Havana Club 7 anos, in the cupboard, and the combination of that, with the delicious taste of the toasted, syrupy pecans, certainly did the trick of cheering me up.

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Well, after all that, you couldn’t expect me to just make the one?! The other little one became second helpings that night, and the one at the bottom was tidily polished off the next day (half cold for breakfast, half hot after dinner). The recipe is below.  I will have to resist  making this too often, or I’ll turn into a pudding if I’m not careful.

DSCN0859

Banana and Caramel Pecan French Toast

Ingredients: 2 eggs; vanilla essence; cinnamon powder; milk; Havana Club rum; brioche loaf; pecan halves; one banana; golden caster sugar; water

1)      Combine the eggs, a splash of vanilla essence, a tsp of cinnamon, a glug of milk, and a decent splash of Havana Club rum and whisk them up together.

2)      Soak thick slices (2cm depth) of brioche in the eggy mix and position them in layers in an oven proof dish. Between the layers, add chopped pecans and sliced bananas

3)      Equal quantities of golden caster sugar and water – personal preference, but I used 150ml of each.Heat in a pan until the mixture dissolves, and bubbles to a rich brown colour. Add a handful of chopped pecans to the syrup and pour the syrup over the prepared French toast pudding.

4)      Cook in an oven pre-heated to 180C for 15-20 mins, until risen and golden.

5)      Enjoy!

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