Tag Archives: Health

Homemade Spread for Your Bread

Do you fancy a little spread on your bread?  I do.  But I didn’t always.  For a long time I took the healthy option and went without.  Even on toast.  Even with vegemite.  Then my first child started eating toast…and sandwiches…and it all went out the window.  I began applying a yellow slather of butter or marge to any serving of bread or biscuit, even if it was to be spread with another kind of spread that really could hold its own because it’s so full of oil anyway.  (I’m talking peanut butter and friends).  Now I can’t go without it myself.

Here’s the dilemma though.  I love the taste of butter (I actually mean real butter…you know, the kind that was once cream) but it is quite naughty.  Not fantastic for the arteries.  And it needs a little work before it can be applied to bread in a cooperative way.

Then there’s margarine.  Now margarine has had its share of bad press because of its high content of trans fats (these are unhealthy fats disguising themselves as the good guys) from hydrogenated vegetable oils.  According to the Heart Foundation, the levels of trans fats in margarines in Australia are actually low (a result of the Heart Foundation pressuring manufacturers years ago).  It’s a different story though in many other countries, especially the United States.  But, for Australians it seems the healthy option (other than opting out) is margarine.  Here’s an excellent summary of butter versus margarine by Australian nutritionist, Catherine Saxelby.

Back to the dilemma.  I could cope with choosing margarine over butter if it was only about the taste.  I could tolerate margarine.  But I can’t tolerate it.  Unfortunately, it seems most margarine-type products in Australia (including spreadable butters and olive oil spreads) contain palm oil.  (Check out this useful guide about which products are palm oil free…or not).

So for me, it’s either abstain – which I’m sure my body would thank me for – or choose healthier and orangutan-friendly options.  Here are some ideas on what to use instead of butter and marge:

1.  Avocado – superior nutritional value and comes pre-wrapped in it’s own biodegradable packaging.  And if you haven’t tried avocado and vegemite you’ve been missing out!

2.  Nut butters – peanut, cashew, almond and hazelnut.  I’m sure there are others, too.  Just make sure you buy 100% nut spread to be sure the sly Mr P.O. hasn’t made his way in to the jar you’re consuming (or go to the link above for the guide).

3.  Tahini – a.k.a. sesame seed spread.

4.  Hummus.

5.  Extra virgin olive oil.  I’ve read about people freezing olive oil too, to turn it into a bit of a spread.

6.  Make your own olive oil and butter spread.  This is sooo simple.  And if you make it you know exactly what went into it.  Yes it contains butter.  But the butter is diluted considerably with the olive oil (to around 50% if you follow the quantities below).

Home-Made Olive Oil and Butter Spread

Combine 250g softened butter with  1 cup olive oil, and a little salt if you like,  in a food processor.  Or mix it up with a wooden spoon, whisk or hand beaters.  Just mix it up enough so that the butter and oil are blended together to a lovely, smooth consistency that looks like runny margarine.  



That’s it.  Nothing more.  


Pour the mixture into a clean container and pop it in the fridge.  


It  will firm up after an hour or so.  

If you like a firmer consistency and don’t mind the higher butter:oil ratio (the more butter, the naughtier) you can reduce the amount of oil to about 1/2 cup.  Anything less and it will be starting to resemble butter and be equally hard to spread.

Use a lighter oil if you’re not keen on a strong olive oil taste but if you’re an olive oil fan then go for extra virgin as it’s healthier.  You could also experiment with different plant oils.  I haven’t.  But I reckon macadamia or grape seed oil would be worth a try.  And of course, use certified organic ingredients if you can.

I’m planning to return to my days of spreadless bread.  Some time soon.  Really.  I will.  But in the meantime I’ll stick to the healthier and pro-orangutan choices.  What do you think?  Would you give one of the spread alternatives a go?  Or do you already use them? Or go without?


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Filed under Eating, Living Green

Making Beauty

Have you ever made your own natural beauty and skin care products? My sister and I discovered this art when we were teenagers. Yoghurt face masks, egg white face masks, oatmeal face masks (we liked face masks), cucumber eye patches, egg yolk hair treatments and lemon juice hair lightener ensued. Mum must have wondered where all the food supplies were going! Or perhaps it was no mystery. I can remember at least one occasion when my mother was startled by the sight of a white-faced (yoghurt) body, with cucumber slices for eyes (under-eye circles), lying prostrate on the floor (relaxation).

Creating home-made skin care treatments is loads of fun – even my one year old son would agree smearing yoghurt all over one’s face is a wonderful pleasure! The best part about handmade natural products, though, is knowing what’s in them…no 3 digit numbers or acronyms here…no palm oil either. Your body, our waterways, and orangutans, can breathe a sigh of relief. The second best part for me is: minimal packaging. The beauty products industry is renowned for excessive packaging and most items come in plastic. Only a few of the ingredients in home-made preparations need come plastic-clad…most can be sought in glass bottles, cardboard boxes, recycled packaging or even nude (straight from the garden or hen-house).

Ingredients (clockwise from top left): beeswax; honey; bicarb soda; macadamia oil

Now that I’m a grown-up I like to dabble in making my own beauty products on a little more refined scale. Though I still do reach for an egg white or yoghurt when I need a face mask (this happens about once a year these days). I tend to make preparations that are slightly more complicated…but still not very tricky. Below are some of my favourites – all fairly quick, easy and inexpensive to produce and don’t require many ingredients that you wouldn’t already have in the cupboard or fridge. They can be made up in batches and stored to use as required.

But first…a note on beeswax

Beeswax is widely available online. Most recipes don’t require very much – a small supply will last quite a long time. Try to find cosmetic grade beeswax from an organic supplier that is as local as possible. Also, most recipes describe melting beeswax in a double boiler as for melting chocolate however, I have found I can melt it very carefully in the microwave in a pyrex jug. As with melting chocolate in the microwave, to avoid burning it, use a medium power and do short bursts of heat at a time (say 1-2 minutes) checking and swishing it around to facilitate melting, as you go.

And…a note on oil

I tend to use macadamia oil when a recipe calls for oil (as with the other plant-based oils you can also rub it onto your skin straight). I started using macadamia oil because I could obtain it from a local, biodynamic producer. Once I’d tried it on my skin, and did some research, I was a convert. It does have quite a strong nutty smell which I find appealling but apparently some people don’t. If you have a local source of another organically produced plant-based oil such as olive (virgin or extra virgin), almond or coconut (virgin) then use those. As explained over here, you might find one of these suits your skin better than the others. And if you have a tree nut allergy, avoid using tree nut oils on your skin!


Lip Balm

90g beeswax (grated)

125mL (1/2 cup) macadamia oil

Melt the beeswax and oil together in a double boiler or in the microwave as described above. Avoid boiling the oil (be sure to check it regularly if using the microwave method). If this occurs, allow the mixture to cool before adding any other ingredients and pouring into containers. Once the beeswax is melted, remove from heat, stir to combine then pour into clean containers (used lip balm containers and small glass jars work well). Allow to rest at room temperature for 48hours before using (to allow proper setting).

Variations: I quite like the plain lip balm, but you could try the following variations, especially if making the lip balm for gifts. (The extra ingredients should be added after allowing the combined macadamia oil and beeswax to cool slightly.)

1 – 2 teaspoons of honey

1/2-1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

6 drops (approx.) peppermint essential oil – this gives your lips a bit of a zing! (Or try another essential oil)

Note that most of the lip balm recipes I’ve found include vitamin E as a preservative. Since macadamia oil has high levels of vitamin E, I don’t bother with this ingredient, however if using another plant oil, such as olive oil, add 500IU (1/2 capsule) vitamin E at the same point as for the other extra ingredients.

Or try one of these lovely recipes by Crunchy Betty.

Hand/body balm with macadamia oil

Hand/Body Balm

1 cup (250mL) macadamia/olive oil

 50g beeswax

Warm the beeswax and oil together gently in the microwave or in a double boiler. Stir to combine and place in clean containers (eg, glass jars). Allow to set at room temperature. To make a slightly more creamy balm, add 1&1/2 tablespoons (30mL) coconut oil and an extra 10g beeswax to the mix. You can also add your favourite essential oil such as lavender, vanilla or rose.

Oatmeal and Bicarb Face Scrub

This works really well and can be used for any skin type but is particularly helpful for problematic skin. Combine two parts fine oatmeal (if too course you might need to whizz it in a spice grinder) with one part bicarbonate of soda. Place in a sealed container. To use, make a paste with water then apply to face. Leave on for one minute, rub gently on skin in circles then rinse with warm water. I tend to use this in the shower as it’s a bit messy! You can use both of these ingredients on their own too, but for best results use them together.

Sugar/Salt Body Scrub

Add 1 cup of oil (macadamia, olive, or almond) with 2 cups of sea salt or certified organic raw sugar and combine. Store in a wide-mouthed container (I use a steel container that previously held body balm).

Bath bombs

Bath Bombs

These are fun and simple to make – a perfect activity to do with kids. They will enjoy using them too. Take a look at this lovely recipe by Idle Wife or use the slightly simplified version below:

1 cup bicarb soda

2/3 cup citric acid (smaller packets available in supermarkets; bulk amounts online or in health food stores)

1 tablespoon macadamia oil (or other plant oil)

6 drops (approx.) essential oil of your choice (I like peppermint or lavender)

food colouring

Combine the dry ingredients, squashing any lumps with the back of a spoon. Add the oils and colour and mix well. When squeezed the mixture should just hold together. If not add a little more oil. Press firmly into lightly oiled moulds (I use a silicone cup-cake tray but disposable plastic muffin containers would work well too). Allow to dry (and harden) for a few hours before removing from tray and storing in a sealed container.

There are countless resources (including online stores) on this topic with thousands more recipes. I’m not going to attempt to make a list of them here. Once you’ve tried a few simple recipes you might get hooked and decide to add some more impressive concoctions to your repertoire. I hope you can see that making natural beauty products at home is not only do-able, it’s actually easy! A whole lot simpler than deciphering the ingredients list on a typical store-bought bottle of face cream. That’s for sure!


Filed under Green Craft, Living Green