Lemon and Lavender Sugar Scrub

Most days I'm up tinkering in the kitchen developing tasty recipes to share with you, but for the past few weeks I've done everything I can possibly think of to avoid cooking. I was in desperate need of a break, so I took one and spent a few weeks relying solely on my crock-pot and a seemingly endless supply of home made soup from our deep freezer. This kind of cooking funk is something I'm sure many of you can relate with, especially if you work long hours, have kids, or both—but mine seemed to stretch on and on—I've hardly written a single recipe in the past 5 weeks. 

To get myself out of this rut and back into the kitchen I decided to give myself a kick in the rear and tackle a project that has been on my to-do list for awhile—making another homemade body scrub. I loved the Mint Matcha Salt Scrub I made last year, but this time I wanted to try something a little more calming (especially since I've been one big bundle of stress lately.) After playing around with a few possible combinations I decided to pair the bright citrus scent of lemon with a hint of calming lavender and let me tell you, it's absolutely fabulous! 

Not only is this sugar scrub great for clearing your mind, but it also exfoliates and moisturizes your skin, leaving it feeling lusciously smooth. With only two weeks left until Valentine's Day, it's the perfect gift to make for the lady (or ladies) in your life. And did I mention it only has 5 ingredients? You'll be able to put it together in no time flat!

Lemon and Lavender Sugar Scrub | Not Starving Yet

Lemon and Lavender Sugar Scrub
makes approximately 2 cups

Ingredients

1½ cup sugar
¼ cup dried lavender
15 - 20 drops of lemon essential oil
½ cup almond oil, or another carrier oil of your choice (see notes)
2 - 3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

Directions

  • In a small bowl combine sugar, dried lavender, lemon essential oil, almond oil, and optional food coloring. Mix until ingredients are evenly distributed, then portion out into screw-top containers.

Notes

Dried lavender tends to turn sugar scrubs a faint purple/gray so I like to add a little yellow food coloring to give the scrub a better color. If you prefer a more natural scrub you can leave it out or find an all-natural food coloring.

When it comes to packaging your sugar scrub you have a lot of options. Personally I prefer to use Talenti gelato containers, they're the perfect size and won't break if you drop them in the shower. You can also use mason jars or check out Hobby Lobby for cute looking jars like the one in the photo above.

Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils for aromatherapy purposes. If you can't find Almond Oil feel free to substitute Apricot Kernel Oil, Avocado Oil, Grape Seed Oil or another carrier oil of your choice.

Disclosure

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Whole Wheat Penne with Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Fennel, and Pancetta

I've had a bit of a love affair with fennel lately. It started last fall after I picked up a bulb at the farmers' market on a whim, hoping it would turn out to be the missing ingredient to my stuffing recipe. I've been tinkering with my stuffing recipe for over five years now, it's tasty, but not quite perfect— something that has been a source of frustration every time the holidays roll around. At least with this latest iteration I learned something new about my husband, he enjoys fresh fennel nearly as much as I do. 

Since this discovery fennel has become become a staple in our house, so I wasn't surprised to find a forgotten bulb when it came time to clean out the fridge before my trip. I gathered up all of my leftover bits and bobs— scraps of parmesan, Vidalia onion, and bell pepper, plus a pint of cream a little past its prime, then spun a little kitchen magic. Today's recipe, born of nothing more than leftovers and a box of whole wheat penne I bought by mistake, turned out to be something worth making again. I ran out to the store in the middle of the night so I could share it with you. It's a little labor intensive for a week night meal, but if you're looking for comfort food or a special dish to share with someone, then look no further because this is it.

Whole Wheat Penne with Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Fennel, and Pancetta

Whole Wheat Penne with Caramelized Onion, Fennel, and Pancetta
makes 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 cup Vidalia onion, thinly sliced (see notes)
1 cup fennel, thinly sliced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
¼ cup salted butter
½ cup whipping cream
1 cup parmesan, freshly shredded
sea salt, to taste

Directions

  • In a skillet, over medium-low heat, cook pancetta until crispy. Set aside on paper towel to drain. Do not drain the grease from the skillet, you'll need it for cooking the veggies.
  • Add thinly sliced onions and fennel to the skillet. Cook for 30 minutes, over medium-low heat. Give the pan a good stir every 10 minutes to help everything cook evenly. 
  • After 30 minutes add bell pepper and shiitake mushrooms to the skillet, cook for 10 minutes.
  • While the peppers and mushrooms are cooking, boil your pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta has cooked, drain the water and add a tablespoon of salted butter to keep the pasta from sticking.
  • Remove the cooked veggies from skillet and add to pasta. Leave the heat for the pasta turned off so you don't overcook the veggies.
  • In the skillet add three tablespoons of salted butter and two cloves of minced garlic. Cook for several minutes, until the garlic turns slightly translucent.
  • Add whipping cream and parmesan, then turn heat to medium. Use a whisk to stir the sauce until it thickens. Add the finished sauce and the pancetta to the cooked pasta. Stir until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and top with salt to taste.

Notes

My husband and I disagree about how much salt this pasta needs. I'm content not to add any additional salt, there is already a fair amount from the pancetta and salted butter, but he insists that this benefits from a pinch or two of salt. So, take a taste of the final dish and salt it to your preferred tastes.

Vidalia onions have a short growing season, if you can't find them feel free to substitute with yellow onions.

Spinach Manicotti

Valentine's Day less than two weeks away and I have to say I'm dreading the occasion. I've always felt it was one of those holidays we could really do without because it's always felt so forced. I mean, do we really need a holiday reminding us to tell our loved ones that we love them? 

Absolutely not.

I may not be the kind of girl who wants flowers and chocolate for Valentine's Day, but deep down inside I'm a romantic at heart. I love to surprise my husband with what I've always called random days, where I stumble across something I know he'll love and give him a random gift or cook his favorite dinner out of the blue. I just like seeing the smile it brings to his face. And if random day happens to coincide with a rough week at work or a bad day, then that's even better.

I think a lot of people forget that we don't need a holiday or special occasion to give gift or plan a romantic dinner for those we love.

If you're looking to plan a romantic dinner for two, for Valentine's Day, or just because these manicotti make the perfect main course. Just pair it with a loaf of Italian bread, a salad with home made dressing, or Garlic ParmesanGreen Beans and you've got a meal that will please even the pickiest of eaters. 

Do you have anything special planned for Valentine's Day, or do you prefer to pretend the holiday doesn't exist?

Spinach Manicotti

Spinach Manicotti
makes 3 - 4 servings

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach

16 ounces ricotta cheese
½ cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
9 Manicotti Noodles
32oz Pasta Sauce (I use Mids Garlic and Onion)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

Directions

  • In a food processor add minced garlic and fresh spinach, pulse until finely chopped, then combine with ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
  • Place cheese mixture in a disposable icing bag or zip lock bag, cut the tip off, then pipe the filling into the manicotti noodles.
  • Place filled noodles in a 7 x 11 inch glass baking dish, cover with sauce, and refrigerate overnight to soften the noodles. If you don't plan on making this dish in advance you'll need to boil the manicotti noodles for 4 - 6 minutes, then allow them to cool before stuffing with cheese.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Top manicotti with shredded mozzarella, then bake for 30 - 40 minutes.

Easy Hand Made Chocolates For Your Sweetheart, No Tempering Required

Last year for my birthday my mother-in-law gave me a variety of silicone molds that I had intended to use to make home made fruit snacks for my son. It was a fun, yet time consuming project and a complete and utter failure since my son refused to eat them.

So much for healthy fruit snacks...

My candy molds have sat around unused since that project, but I'm determined not to let them continue gathering dust. If you follow me on twitter then you may have heard that I'm allergic to chocolate (I complained about not long ago.) It's a very depressing allergy to have, but I decided that this year I wasn't going to let it keep me from my goal of finally learning how to make molded chocolates.

Time to dust off those chocolate molds!

Several years ago, while I was hunting for a supplier for Coverture (a type of chocolate I use for making ice cream) I came across a small company from Georgia called Chocoley. Since then I've been ordering all of my chocolate making supplies from them, due largely in part to their wonderful customer service. Recently they began offering free samples of some of their products, so with my last order I requested samples of their Bada Bing Bada Boom Candy & Molding Formula. I was so impressed with the quality and ease of use that I thought I would share it with you, the texture and flavor of the chocolate is light years ahead of the candy melts you see sold in stores. There is no tempering required for this product, you simply melt the chocolate and off you go! It makes it the perfect way to introduce anyone, even children, to candy making.

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Supplies

Bada Bing Bada Boom Candy & Molding Formula from Chocoley
Decorating Squeeze Bottles, 4oz
Mixing Bowl filled with Hot Water
Bench Scraper
Candy Molds, any pattern
Silikomart Silicone Chocolate Heart Mold
Fat Daddio's Triple Heart Chocolate Mold
Freshware 30-Cavity Silicone Chocolate Mold

optional

LorAnn Flavoring Oils 5 Pack and Eye Droppers
Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping & Coating Formula from Chocoley
Fine Tip Squeeze Bottle, 8 oz
Candy making gloves

Bada Bing Bada Boom Candy & Molding Formula from Chocoley

Decorating Squeeze Bottles, 4oz

Mixing Bowl filled with Hot Water

Bench Scraper 

Candy Molds, any pattern

Silikomart Silicone Chocolate Heart Mold

Fat Daddio's Triple Heart Chocolate Mold

Freshware 30-Cavity Silicone Chocolate Mold

optional:

 LorAnn Flavoring Oils 5 Pack and Eye Droppers

Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping & Coating Formula from Chocoley

Fine Tip Squeeze Bottle, 8 oz

Candy making gloves

How to Determine How Much Chocolate You Need:

If you are using the Silikomart Silicone Chocolate Heart Mold the manufacturer provides the dimensions of the individual cups, each cup should measure 1.57" x 1.18" x 0.47".

To calculate:

multiply length x width x depth x 0.708 = number of ounces per cavity.

number of ounces per cavity x number of cavities = ounces needed per mold

Our calculations for the  Silikomart Silicone Chocolate Heart Mold should look like this:

1.57 x 1.18 x 0.47 x 0.708 = 0.62 ounces per cavity

0.62 x 15 = 9.25 ounces per mold

For information on figuring out how many pieces will be yielded per pound of chocolate or how much chocolate you need to make X number of pieces try reading this article on Chocoley.com

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Directions

  • Before you begin, make sure all of your tools are clean, dry, and free of dust.

  • Chop Bada Bing Bada Boom Candy & Molding Formula into small pieces and place inside plastic squeeze bottles.

If you are using flavoring oils you will want to add them before you begin melting the chocolate, otherwise your chocolate will seize, causing it to get lumpy.

  • Use an eye dropper to add several drops to the bottles of melted chocolate. These are concentrated oils and a little bit goes a long way so try adding a few drops, shaking well to mix, then taste and repeat as necessary. See notes at the end of the post for more information about adding flavor oils.

Do not place bottles in microwave or boiling water to melt, it will damage the bottles.

  • Enclose bottles in a ziplock bag, remove the air, then set in a mixing bowl filled with hot tap water for 10 - 15 minutes allowing it to melt. To help the chocolate along, remove the bottles from the water every 5 minutes, dry ziplock bag off, then gently shake the bottles to mix.

Make sure the bottles are completely dry before continuing, getting water in the chocolate will ruin it.

  • Place your mold on a level surface and fill each cavity to the top. Gently tap the mold to release any air bubbles, then scrape the excess chocolate off of the mold with a bench scraper.
  • Once molds are clean place them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set up. Make sure not to leave them in the refrigerator for too long otherwise moisture will form on the chocolate. If there is moisture on the chocolate you can gently remove it using a paper towel.

You may want to consider wearing candy making gloves when handling the chocolate to prevent leaving fingerprints behind.

  • When the chocolate is ready to be removed from the mold turn it upside down and tap it until the chocolates releases. 

If the chocolates do not easily come free of the mold it has not set up all the way. Place the molds back in the refrigerator for a few minutes before trying again. 

  • OPTIONAL: Repeat step 2 using Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping & Coating Formula and a fine tip squeeze bottle. Completely dry bottles, then slowly drizzle melted chocolate over your finished pieces using a zig-zag pattern. Place chocolates in the refrigerator to set up.
  • Store finished chocolates in a cool, dry place in an air tight container. For best results the temperature should be 55°F - 70°F with a humidity level below 50%.
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Notes

This is only the second time I've worked with flavoring oils, feel free to use my notes as a jumping off point or experiment on your own to find out what works best for your tastes.

Peppermint Milk Chocolate

Amount: 4 drops of oil per ounce of milk chocolate
Results: 2 drops would have been enough. Also, don't lick peppermint oil off your fingers if you happen to spill, it sets you lips and tongue on fire!

Cherry White Chocolate

Amount: 3 drops of oil per ounce of white chocolate
Results: 2 drops would have been enough. The colored oils slightly tinted the white chocolate.

Peach White Chocolate

Amount: 2 drops of oil per ounce of white chocolate
Results: The colored oils slightly tinted the white chocolate.

Creme de Menthe White Chocolate

Amount: 2 drops of oil per ounce of white chocolate
Results: The colored oils slightly tinted the white chocolate.

Recipe Inspiration

Chocolate molding tutorial, flavoring oil tutorial, and equations for determining amount of chocolate needed were provided by Chocoley.com. For other fun ideas or more information on chocolate making, please visit their recipe section or resource section.

Disclosure

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.