French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 9: Chocolate Mint Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

Before the release of my new eBook, I mentioned I’d be writing about a spring surprise. I was definitely surprised! I envisioned a beautiful spring green color macaron shell and a rich minty chocolate ganache filling. Well, I ended up learning more about gel colors, natural colors and essential oils.

At first, all was great with the meringue. It had the standard stiff peaks and to get that lovely minty color, I added 7 drops of gel food coloring. And that was followed with one drop of pure peppermint essential oil. So it looked and smelled like chocolate mint chip ice cream.

chocolatemint1drying
Nice mint green color

Everything mixed up well; the piping was adequate, the shells dried within 30 minutes. Midway through the first batch, I switched on the oven light and saw nice little feet forming. I set about making the ganache and when it was time to remove the macarons I saw that all the shells had a golden brown crust! My goal was green not brown. After removing them, I lowered the oven rack [it was one below the center] and lowered the temperature from 320 to 300. But as seen below, it didn’t help…

chocolatemint1brown
Too much gel colorant & wrong oven temperature 

I baked the other two trays at varying temperatures and oven rack positions. All of them were well done, even though twenty minutes was the longest time spent in the oven. Most were so hollow either the tops came off or you could easily see through the feet from one side to the other.

chocolatemint1half
The overbaked shell cracked in half!

The chocolate ganache tasted good but not great as I didn’t add enough heavy cream and discovered that the teaspoon of virgin coconut oil clogged the metal piping tip. I reversed the piping bag and adding the ganache that way! What a mess I was making. I also lost several of the shells due to the tops being so crisp they just flipped off. Maybe I could’ve added filling to the other layers, but I just decided to send them to the compost heap outside.

Later, I learned the reason my shells browned – too much gel food colorant and the oven temperature was too high. Okay, next batch I was changing the color to something all natural: matcha green tea.

chocolatemint1macs
Hollow macarons with brownish shells — but they tasted good!

Batch #13 was either going to be lucky or unlucky. Turned out it was a bit of both. My eggs sat on the counter overnight and I noticed they’d aged so well they whipped up to fill the 2-quart bowl up more than halfway. That was a first!

However, I’m going to pass along this tip: don’t mix the powdered sugar and almond flour together a week before you make macarons. I thought it’d save time but in reality I had to resift the remaining half because it got a little clumpy. That wasn’t much of a problem nor was having to move the batter into the five quart bowl because there wasn’t enough room.

Even though I only added 1.5 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder [which I sifted before adding to the sugar/almond flour combo] I found it more difficult to mix. However, it definitely turned the batter green and the resulting macarons look natural, tho’ not lime green or mint green. This was also the first time I used extra fine granulated sugar.

chocolatemint2matcha
Matcha green tea added to almond flour/powdered sugar mix

I added peppermint essential oil to the batter just before mixing it rather than to the meringue. There wasn’t a hint of the matcha green tea aroma.

chocolatemint2cracks
Cracked and deflated macaron shells

The first batch ended up cracking and went into the compost pile. The other two batches came out okay—there were feet, they puffed up but deflated a bit—and they were as hollow as heck but they resembled macaron shells. They’re on the rustic side. The chocolate ganache was made with dark chocolate with mint extract and I added a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil. This time the heavy cream was the right amount and I only added a teaspoon of real butter and no virgin coconut oil.

chocolatemint2shells
Second batch of macaron shells

While the resulting macarons don’t look like they’re from Lauduree, they tasted good and I ended up with 20 of them.

chocolatemint2stack
Natural green color

Next week I’m going to make a fruity combination to celebrate spring. Wish me luck!

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brown sugar shredded coconut organic virgin coconut oil for sugar scrub recipe

Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub Recipe

By Lisa Maliga copyright 2015-2016

brown sugar shredded coconut organic virgin coconut oil for sugar scrub recipe
Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub has only 3 ingredients!

Sugar scrubs are great for exfoliating and leaving your skin smoother and a lot more moisturized–especially in cooler and drier weather. This recipe is so simple to make and the trio of ingredients can be found in your grocery store or natural food market. I’m a big believer in high quality ingredients so I’ve included links that lead to the main websites for each of the three ingredients. These are only suggested places to find them. You may prefer other brands or already have them in your pantry. 

[Click photos to enlarge]

Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub is good for facial use, on your body and feet, and it makes an awesome lip scrub. Please try not to eat too much of this as it’s very sweet! Ask me how I know this! 🙂

If using a sugar scrub in the bathtub or shower, be aware that it can become slippery after you rinse off the sugar scrub.

don't eat the sugar scrub recipe

Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup organic brown sugar https://www.floridacrystals.com/Products.aspx?id=1

1/2 cup organic virgin coconut oil https://store.nutiva.com/coconut-oil

2 tablespoons shredded coconut [unsweetened] http://www.bobsredmill.com/shredded-coconut.html

Equipment:

2-ounce measuring cup

Measuring spoon

Wooden spoon

Plastic or glass container for storage

Prep time:

5 minutes

Yield:

Approx. 11 ounces

Instructions:

Pour the brown sugar into the measuring cup. Then add the virgin coconut oil. Mix well and add the shredded coconut. Once mixed, scoop into your container. Make sure the container is tightly closed.

don't eat the sugar scrub with spoon
Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub

The look and texture will resemble wet sand.

Some variations may include: half brown/half white sugar, coconut sugar, demerara sugar [which has larger sugar grains that may scratch very sensitive skin]. Please note that the shredded coconut may too rough for sensitive skin although the amount included is far less than the other ingredients. You can also add half the amount of shredded coconut.

While this can be used on your body, exercise caution when applying to the face as it might be too rough for some people. Do a patch test, if in doubt. Also, apply to clean, damp skin.

About the Shelf Life:

don't eat the sugar scrub with spoon
Small plastic spoon

When I was running my former company, everythingshea.com, I didn’t sell sugar scrubs from my website, but I made them for a few wholesale accounts. One of the clients asked me about the shelf life. I was straightforward about it as I didn’t use preservatives back then and I still don’t! I can’t guarantee a scrub will have a one year shelf life, even though I have made some that have lasted longer than that because I made large quantities or else I didn’t use them that much. 

If you don’t use this recipe right away, here are some ways to extend the shelf life. Between uses, make sure the lid is always tightly shut. Keep it away from water when using at the sink or in your shower or tub. Apply with dry fingers. If concerned about spoilage, apply with a spoon, wooden craft stick or cosmetic spatula, if possible. Store in a cool, dry place. If you don’t plan to use it a lot, you can refrigerate the sugar scrub.

Thank you for reading this and let me know if you make it and how you like it! Don’t hesitate to share this easy-to-make recipe and please Don’t Eat the Sugar Scrub! 🙂

For a whipped sugar scrub recipe, check out my latest eBook Nilotica [East African] Shea Body Butter Recipes [The Whipped Shea Butter Series], Book 1.

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The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage ~ Excerpt

prepper's guide to soap crafting and soap storage lisa maligaBy Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

Be the cleanest prepper around! Create your own lye-free soap or find the best type of soap to store in the coming years. Informative book shows the best ways to craft your own soap. You’ll receive original recipes and valuable storage tips to get the most out of your soap. Learn about natural melt and pour, hand-milled, African black soap and liquid soaps. Includes recommended reading and several supplier resources. The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage is written and photographed by the author of How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars and The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting.

CHAPTER 3 

STORING YOUR SOAP BASE

Here are ways to get the most out of your soap base. First, some general use tips.

Your soap should be kept in a draining type of soap dish. Leaving any type of soap in a puddle of water in the shower, bathtub or next to the sink will drastically shorten its shelf life. The humidity will cause it to soften much faster. If you have a very small/humid enclosed type of bathroom, consider storing your soap in a separate room.

 Melt and Pour Soap Base

Here are some things you should know about melt and pour soap base, sometimes known as glycerin melt and pour soap base. It contains approximately 20% plant-derived glycerin, which makes it softer than other types of soap. This also means that it’s a moisture magnet. It should always be wrapped and stored in a cool, dry location. You can wrap in the original packaging, usually plastic wrap/shrink wrap, or a clamshell container. Additionally, it can be stored in a heavy-duty opaque plastic storage container. When I was crafting this type of soap I bought it in 40-pound blocks, which I cut into large chunks and kept in an airtight opaque plastic container. This was kept in the back of a closet so it was away from any harsh lighting conditions.

The Prepper’s Guide to Soap Crafting and Soap Storage is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

Natural Fine Hair Care Tips, Part 2

jojoba oil
Jojoba oil

Copyright 2008-2013

By Lisa Maliga

Continued from Natural Fine Hair Care Tips, Part 1

Vitamins, minerals, herbs – the following will help your hair thrive. Hair care formulations, vitamin A, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, flaxseed oil, MSM [Methyl Sulfonyl Methane], silica, horsetail, biotin, B vitamin complex. Consult with your health care practitioner before taking supplements. Your hair is a reflection of your physical state Get plenty of rest. Drink enough water and exercise to suit your lifestyle. Eat fruits, vegetables, cereals, eggs, milk, and bread. Organic food is always a healthier option. 

Scalp massage – An inexpensive method for helping hair growth/regrowth is to massage the scalp. Whether you buy a wood or rubber scalp massager, or opt for your ten fingers, you can invigorate and help cleanse your scalp either before shampooing, or whenever you shampoo. By stimulating your scalp you encourage the circulation, think of it as scalp aerobics, and this allows your scalp’s natural oils, sebum, to be distributed. When using your fingers, never use your nails, only your fingertips. Always massage gently, and start at the crown of your head and work your way lower. 

Oils – In the book, “Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care,” author Erich Keller writes: “Since the hair is made of keratin cells, which consist almost exclusively of protein, it is particularly important to supply it with protein in the form of milk products, fish, soy products, nuts, seeds, and the essential fatty acids contained in cold-pressed vegetable oils.” 

While eating healthy food is advisable, the author touches on the subject of how cold pressed vegetable oils are vital for the hair. Choosing the proper oil sometimes is a matter of experimentation. A light oil should be used for thin, fine hair, but there are those who can use a heavier oil like olive. There are various grades of vegetable oils available from unrefined to heavily refined. Unrefined oils retain their natural vitamins and minerals and are considered healthier, but their aromas can be somewhat pungent. For example, sesame seed oil, an excellent skin and hair loving oil that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, retains a darker color and nuttier aroma in its unrefined state. However, once it’s been refined, the color is lighter and there is no discernible odor. 

There are many oils that are available whether in your kitchen cupboard, at your grocery store, health food store, or your favorite online shop. Experimenting with oils and their applications is necessary, sometimes you’ll discover what works for you within the first attempt, other times you may have to try out several different oils and application methods. You’ll find that organic jojoba and organic virgin coconut oil are suitable for most people with fine hair. 

Oil Applications: Leave In – This involves a very small amount of oil and you can control whether it’s applied throughout your hair or only on the ends. Simply comb or brush through your dry hair. 

Oiling Dry Hair – To use this method, you allow the oil to remain on your scalp and hair for approximately 20 minutes, and shampoo it out. 

Oiling Damp Hair – Investing in a spray mister is a great way to easily add enough distilled or spring water so that you can dampen your hair easily. Apply the oil and comb through. Whether oiling dry or damp hair, make sure it’s free from tangles, so either combing or brushing before applying is necessary. You can choose to comb it through your hair or remain as is – it does depend upon what you’ve added. While some people feel that 20 minutes isn’t enough, others opt for an hour, and there are people who feel as though allowing the oil to remain on overnight is beneficial. 

Other Applications: Clay, Dead Sea Mud, Powdered Herbs, Protein Powder, Eggs, Honey, Yogurt, Milk, Henna [neutral or colored], or Mashed Fruits – all the listed products can be used to create a hair mask which will increase its strength, encourage growth, enhance shine, and tame curls. Any of these ingredients, both singly or in combination, can be healthfully used. Read labels before purchase. If you have very fine hair, be careful about using eggs and make sure you rinse with cold water to avoid scrambled eggs! 

Shampoos: To use a more natural and cost effective shampoo, consider a shampoo bar. They are simple to use, can clean your face and body, and they are easy to pack and don’t spill. All shampoo bars are formulated for fine hair. Additionally, they work in soft water and hard water areas. You can make your own, so check out the book How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars.

The Joy of Virgin Coconut Oil

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2013

Imagine finding a completely natural product that you can eat, and use to help strengthen and moisturize your hair, skin, lips, and nails. Also, depending on the temperature, it can be solid or liquid, thus facilitating its ease of use. What is this versatile ingredient?
This extraordinary ingredient is virgin coconut oil, and its loaded with vitamin E, antioxidants, fiber and smells just like a freshly opened tropical coconut. The color is white, the texture varies from a clear liquid, which is easily applied to the skin and hair, or is solid white when the temperature is below 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The wonderful news about virgin coconut oil is that whether in butter or liquid oil form, the good qualities just don’t diminish!
virgin coconut oil
Virgin Coconut Oil

Here are some uses for Virgin Coconut Oil: 

Skin ~ As coconut oil is high in vitamin E, it helps your skin feel soft and supple skin. Its also recommended for suntanning both before and after sun exposure. Coconut oil is excellent to use as a massage oil as its nonsticky and absorbs quickly.
 
Hair ~ One of the best natural conditioners out there is your friendly jar of virgin coconut oil. This is a way to make your hair feel softer and smoother and it can even help decrease tangling. Massage into your scalp and comb through to the ends.
 
Some people prefer only massaging directly onto the scalp for about 20 minutes at a time as they feel too much can clog pores. Other people can allow the virgin coconut oil to remain on their scalp and hair for much longer periods of time.
 
Nails ~ Use virgin coconut oil to help strengthen your nails and keep your cuticles in great shape. Idea if you bite your nails, try using pleasant smelling virgin coconut oil on them to prevent you from doing so and to remedy any previous damage.
 
Lips ~ Virgin coconut oil applied to the lips can help prevent chapping and naturally moisturize them.
 
Animals ~ Cats, dogs, and other mammals can appreciate the external and internal benefits of virgin coconut oil. On a personal note, my cat greatly appreciates her daily dose of virgin coconut oil, which is applied to her sides so it can be licked off. Her fur is very thick, smooth and shiny. Adding virgin coconut oil to her fur was the direct result of too many feuds with other cats and she was left scratched and with missing fur. By applying coconut oil to those injured areas the wounds healed within days and the fur grew back thick and strong.  Before rushing out and offering your pet coconut oil, consult with a veterinarian before adding this to your pet’s food bowl.
 
Cooking ~ People have been cooking with virgin coconut oil for centuries. Those people usually dont live in northern climates but in the locations where coconut palm trees flourish: the Philippines, Africa, Jamaica, Southeast Asia, and India. Cooking with virgin coconut oil means that you can enhance the flavors of the foods youre frying with the rich and sweet aroma and taste of coconut. This healthy oil is suitable for children and senior citizens, as well as vegans and vegetarians as its easy to digest.  Recently, there have been many studies showing that virgin coconut oil possesses natural fatty acids that are vital to our internal comfort, along with giving us an ability to help us burn calories at a faster rate. As virgin coconut oil contains no trans fatty acids, just medium chain fatty acids that are not stored as a fat but utilized by your body right away.
 
Next time you want to recharge your energy or soften/soothe your skin, think about your friendly tropical coconut and conveniently packaged in a jar. Nutiva is one of my favorite brands.