Raspberry Red Grapefruit Lip Balm

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I found this tutorial for making lip balm with freeze-dried raspberries from Hello Natural and thought I’d give it a shot, with a few Ali Does It modifications, of course. I love making home-made lip balm. I find it feels much better and more luxurious on my face than the commercial brands, and I love experimenting with different oils to various effects. As long as you keep a general ratio of 3:1 oils:wax, you’re pretty much golden. The measurements I use below resulted in over 2 cups lip balm, so if you use the same ones, make sure you have plenty of containers to put your balm into.

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As for the raspberries, well, those are optional, and I think next time I’d leave them out. They settled mostly to the bottom (though that looks pretty, too), and when I mixed them up in some pots they felt grainy against the skin. They taste great, though, and you can easily and quickly lick the grains of raspberry away, but I think if I’m aiming for a tinted lip balm next time I’ll start by staining the oils I’m using rather than adding any other solids and liquids to the mix. Or I’ll try this version, with Crayons. Or maybe not. Anyway, if you’re going to use raspberries, find some freeze-dried ones. Krystopf and Atlas popped down to NYC to visit Ando and Teedz so I asked them to stop into Trader Joe’s to grab a bag or two.

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I shoved as many raspberries as I could into my spice grinder (it’s a coffee grinder dedicated to all things not coffee) and whazzed them up until they formed a fine powder.

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Be careful not to breathe that in! One 34g bag of raspberries produced for me about 1/4 cup raspberry powder.

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But look! Those seeds are no good!

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So I actually sifted the powder, a wee bit at a time, through a tea strainer to get out the seeds. I think it was worth it.

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Now that you’ve finished with that nonsense, get your melty bits ready. In the bowl of a double boiler, dump in 1 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup sweet almond oil, and 1/2 cup beeswax. I also had about 1/2 tablespoon shea butter in the bottom of a jar that was asking to be used so I added that in as well.

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Once it’s all melted, tip in your raspberry powder as well as about 20 drops essential oils. I used grapefruit. I love pink grapefruit.

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Then you start pouring. I ended up filling like 27 little pots of varying size.

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As well as half a small canning jar. I later decanted this into three wee plastic pots and kept it for my own use. I like the balm: raspberries aside, it’s nice and smooth on the lips without being goopy and provides a decent shine for a decent amount of time.

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As it sets, the raspberries will settle to the bottom. You can stir them up with a toothpick if you like.

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But I kind of like the ombre effect. Makes a great stocking stuffer/gift!

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Rice Pilaf with Tomatoes

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I’ve been on a pilaf kick recently, ever since I had one at the Savoy last week and I can’t even deal with how good it was.  They’re really easy to make, too, just a few extra steps more than plain Jane rice.  Why not? This version serves 6 comfortably, with leftovers.

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I had half a 28oz can of diced tomatoes in the fridge as well as some shallots left over from probably Christmas so I figured I’d do something to use them up and take advantage of my overstock of Trader Joe’s Wild Rice Medley.

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I chopped up a handful of mushrooms and shallots and set those aside.

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Then I dumped a hunk of butter and some olive oil into a skillet and let that melt on medium-high heat.

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When it was all melted and foamy I tipped in 2 cups wild rice medley (you can use whichever rice you wish, of course).  I had a bit of black rice hanging around as well so I chucked that in too.

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Stir that around until it gets all coated with butter.  You’re basically toasting it here, so you want it to get a bit brown and smoky.

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Now you can add in your vegetables and stir them around a bit.

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I left the tomatoes until last because I wanted the onions and mushrooms to soften a bit.

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Now you add your stock.  Any stock you like.  Just make sure that it works according to your rice’s cooking directions.  This rice requires 2 1/2 cups liquid for every cup of rice.  I had 4 cups broth in my little carton here, plus a cup of liquid in the tomatoes.

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Give that a stir, then cover it and let it simmer for the allotted time given in the cooking directions (with mine it was 40 minutes).  I stirred mine occasionally, but only because I’m paranoid about burning rice.  I’m really good at burning rice.

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When it’s cooked take the lid off and remove it from the heat and let it sit for about ten minutes.

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We served ours next to a bed of greens and topped with a pan-seared half chicken breast.  It was lovely!

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Guinness Lamb Stew with Wild Rice

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I know you all think I’m weird because I don’t like soup.  But spooning hot liquid into my mouth (and spilling it down my face, because that’s how I roll) is not my idea of a good time.  I do, however, have a fondness for stew.  Especially stew with beer in it, because beer is a great tenderizer of things.  And because I like beer.

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I’ve had this stewing lamb in my freezer for a while and I decided it was probably time I do something about it.

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So I took it out, put it on a plate, and patted it dry with a paper towel.

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Then, in a bowl, I took a small scoop of flour, added salt and pepper, and gave it a stir.

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Into that I hucked the lamb cubes, and gave them a stir as well.

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I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons olive oil inside.  Then, shaking the excess flour off the lamb, I plopped it in the skillet to brown.

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While that was going on I cut up some vegetables: carrots, an onion, and a package of mushrooms.

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I didn’t have any potatoes, that classic stew thickener, so I decided to use rice.  This wild rice blend from Trader Joe’s is excellent.

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I took the browned lamb cubes out and put them on a plate to rest a few minutes.

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Then I added a bit more oil to the pan and chucked in the vegetables, giving the onions a wee bit of a head start in the cooking.

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Once they’ve softened you can add the rest.

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Now you can chuck the meat back in.  Then I plopped in some parsley, Newfoundland savoury, rosemary, and thyme.  If I’d had sage I would have used that, just to make up the lyrics to that “Scarborough Fair” song.

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I also added a few more tablespoons flour.

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At this point I ran out of space in my pan so I transferred the contents of the skillet to a larger saucepan.  I used a bit of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit and poured that into the pot, along with the rest of the beef broth (about 3 cups).

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Then came two cans of Guinness stout (minus a sip or two, for quality control of course).

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Then the rice.

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Then I brought it to a simmer, lowered the heat, and let that gently bubble away, stirring every so often, for about an hour.

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Excellent. Even more so the next day.

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Savoury Beef with Shiraz Gravy

This recipe is an improvisation from start to finish, and if I hadn’t taken photos of it on the slight off-chance that it was going to work then I would never be able to tell you what I did.

Fortunately for you it got the Pie’s Official Seal of Approval (in that he nodded with his mouth full and muttered, “this is really good”), and I have the photographic evidence to jog my memory.

Beef I get on sale is never the best that red meat has to offer.  More often than not it contains a lot of gristle and tends to fry up awfully tough.  However, I am willing to put up with a lot for three dollars.  These three steaks cost me $3.47 in total, which wasn’t bad at all.

Rather than simply fry them up, as per Pie’s plan, and then drown them in barbecue sauce (also as per Pie’s plan), I decided to cube them up instead and make something a little … saucy.

The original plan was to create some panang-like concoction with red curry and coconut milk.  Upon closer scrutiny it came out that I had no coconut milk so had to go with a more European approach.  I picked four herbs to accompany me on this journey: ground corriander, dried parsley, Hungarian paprika (which, after tasting the completed recipe, I would have left out, as it was overpowered by everything else), and pure Newfoundland savoury, grown at Mt. Scio Savoury Farm, not ten minutes from where we live.

In a small bowl, mix together about 3 tablespoons flour with your paprika, coriander, parsley, and savoury.  Use whatever amount you feel is appropriate.  I probably added 2 teaspoons or so of each.

Before you cook your meat, make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel.  I learned that from Julia Child, and it’s totally true.  If your meat is damp it won’t brown properly.  And yes, that is totally a Spiderman Band-Aid.  I had a run-in with my bread knife and now it has a taste for blood.

In a cast-iron skillet sear the beef at high heat until the cubes are browned on all sides.  A non-stick pan won’t give you half the brownness you’re looking for on this, and if you have the skillet super hot, with just a drop of butter sizzling in there, you don’t have to worry about the meat sticking at all.

Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the browned meat with the flour mixture and stir until the cubes are evenly coated with the flour.  You will notice that it sticks to the bottom of the pan at this point, but that’s a good thing.  The reason you add the flour mixture at this point is so it forms a paste with the meat juices, and when you add more liquid to it, it doesn’t get all clumpy and gross.

Pour in about a cup of beef broth.  For this I dissolved a bouillon cube in a cup of boiling water.  Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon and make sure to scrape up all the pasty stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Let that simmer for a bit until it starts to thicken. That’s the flour working away.  Aren’t you glad you mixed it in early so you have no lumps?

Add about a cup of Shiraz or any other red wine (sorry enthusiasts/aficionados/snobs, but I can’t tell the difference with reds – they all taste like cat pee to me) and let it simmer until the sauce is a thick, dark brown and is reduced by about half.

This should take about twenty minutes from start to finish and serves three or four, depending on how hungry you are.

The Pie has suggested also substituting for the red wine with a nice porter or stout beer.  Could work.  Maybe we’ll try that next time.

Serve over rice (we used our favourite Brown Rice Medley my parents smuggle us across the border from Trader Joe’s) and accompany with your favourite vegetables (in this case, imported broccoli and local rainbow carrots).