I was blown away on my recent trip to San Francisco where I discovered the most delightful place that literally makes absolutely everything from scratch!
My family and I were on a hunt to find some post-lunch treat, and thankfully, the Asian-like structure of Hometown Creamery caught our eyes. There, my brother and I instantly looked into the glass freezer where nine small tubs of ice creams were showcased: roasted black sesame, chocolate sorbet, peanut butter chocolate fudge, fresh mint chip, French roast, fresh ginger, coconut, cookies n’ cream, and pluot sorbet. My brother headed for the classic flavor of fresh mint chip, a personal favorite, while I went for the vegan chocolate sorbet (which I must replicate by the way!) in a ‘smidge’ size (an adorable term the creamery uses for their smallest cup). Hometown Creamery offers six sizes (flight being a dreamy assembly of 5 different scoops) in either a cup or homemade waffle cone. If you choose to go an alternate route, Hometown Creamery offers more options, such as sundaes, milkshakes, coke floats and ice cream sandwiches with homemade (of course) cookies.
On this year’s family vacation, I made it a point to visit my first lavender farm, AKL Maui, to finally witness the home of my favorite scent and essential oil. Here, I was fortunate to see a vast amount of different types of lavender, such as Spanish, French, English, Sweet, growing naturally in the countryside. The farm is quaint, and sits on the side of a mountain, just so that you can see clouds make their way through the lavender bushes growing. As I made my way through the trails, the scent of lavender accompanied my steps. I had discovered that I was only semi-knowledgable on all the benefits of lavender. AKL Maui Farm explains it best:
I am often asked what I think is the perfect summertime treat. Without a doubt – sorbet! Sorbet is not only an incredibly easy dessert to make at home, requiring very few ingredients, but also, perfect for every age group – children, adults, and elders. It is especially great for those with many food intolerances and allergies. It just hits the spot for those who aren’t looking for a dessert that’s too fruity, too tarty, or heavy (like my family!). A true crowd pleaser!
In Italy, people generally have “sorbetto” in the summer to finish a meal. In other fine dining instances, small amounts of sorbet, called the “intermezzo”, are served between courses. It is considered a palate cleanser, and prepares your taste buds for the next course. Either way, it is a delicate part of any meal, and with the mint, it instantly places a refreshing taste in your mouth. At the end of your spoonful, there’s a very subtle tang from the lemon which is softened by the sugar, and if you choose, honey. You can get this summer hit made within 45 minutes (freezing not included)!
Since elementary school, we’ve been told to use hand sanitizer to wipe off any germs that could be left on our hands, and from there, people have immersed themselves in the world of Purell. Little did we know that those sanitizers we have liberally been putting on our hands were actually toxic. It may get rid of 99.9% of germs, put with a product so strong, it is doing more than just that.
Companies such as Purell do not want to disclose their exact scents as a trade secret, and therefore, are allowed by the FDA to simply list “fragrance” among their ingredient list. This allows the company to slip in harmful ingredients under one word that appears innocent. “Fragrance” is generally synthetic and is loaded with toxic chemicals, containing phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors (could alter genital development). Also, many hand sanitizing brands have parabens. Our skin is semipermeable, so all the toxicity of the sanitizer we use everyday, is getting into our bloodstream – something we don’t want.
Enter my easy hand sanitizing gel and spray – it’s easy, and works. Not to mention, it has a small ingredient list, all of which are natural and simple:
Avocado Oil – Sometimes with Purell, people tend to get dry and itchy hands, however with the use of avocado oil in this hand sanitizer, this doesn’t happen. Avocado oil reduces inflammation and itching due to its high content of oleic acid.
Witch Hazel – Witch Hazel has natural disinfectant properties, and is an astringent, therefore having the ability to remove excess oil from the skin, while reducing appearance of pores.
Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera has powerful antioxidants and some of the antioxidant compounds can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Tea Tree Oil – Tea tree oil has incredible antimicrobial properties, and even has the ability to kill parasites and fungal infections.
100% Pure Spearmint Essential Oil – Spearmint is a disinfectant. You can really play around with the oils for the hand sanitizers. I recommend lavender, lemon, and Young Living Thieves essential oils for the best results. Also, make sure to check that your oils are 100% pure because many times, companies add other fragrances and chemicals in their oils. The best essential oil brand I have come across is Young Living.
The recipes are so quick to make, and worth it. There’s also an environmental plus because you are reusing the bottles, rather than throwing them away. Put it in your bag for school, in the car, and you’ll know that what you’re putting on is authentic, natural, and works!
Hand Sanitizing Gel
3 tbsp aloe vera
1 tbsp witch hazel
5 drops 100% pure spearmint essential oil (or others such as lavender, lemon, Thieves, etc.)
2 drops tea tree oil
1 tsp avocado oil (almond oil, coconut oil works well too)
Combine all ingredients and put in a small bottle.
Hand Sanitizing Spray
1 tbsp witch hazel
2 tsp aloe vera
2 tsp avocado oil (almond oil, coconut oil works well too)
10 drops 100% pure spearmint essential oil (or others such as lavender, lemon, Thieves, etc.)
1 drop tea tree oil
Combine all ingredients together, and put in spray bottle. Then fill the bottle with filtered water until the top.
*I got all my bottles from Bed Bath and Beyond for under a dollar*
Summer is officially here, and for those that hope to stay healthy during the heat, I have the perfect recipe for you – vegan chocolate pudding. You can make within 5 minutes because there are only 5 ingredients: cocoa powder, maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and… avocado. Before you judge this snack based on the avocado, I assure you that you will not even taste it. Proof: my brother’s friends loved it, and asked for seconds. Also, the chocolate flavor masks any trace of avocado. Overall, it’s an extremely healthy alternative for the summer, and it actually cools you down. Snacks in the summer often include heavily color-died popsicles, or ice cream sandwiches – but this pudding is guaranteed to make you feel more satisfied, and stay full longer. Avocados contain a high amount of potassium, monounsaturated fatty acids (aka “heart healthy fat”), fiber, and antioxidants which help combat aging. Aside from all the health benefits this pudding may offer, it is incredibly easy to make, and within several times of making it, you’ll notice that you don’t even need to measure out each ingredient.
It’s creamy, velvety, and is quite addicting for chocolate lovers!
In January, I participated for the fourth time in Project Fabricland, a sewing competition. Each week, students meet for three hours to sew garments based on a theme. This year, the theme was Fairytales. This included classic tales such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and lesser known ones such as The Gold Spinner. Since Cinderella was my favorite as a child, I chose her, adding a modern twist to the classic fairytale. We’re all familiar with the Cinderella story and her happy-ever-after. After marrying into royalty, one would think that a girl who went from rags to riches would deny her past – yet Cinderella never did this; she continued to be kind and hard working. Inspired by Cinderella’s story, I sped it up to date: what would modern-day working Cinderella wear to her royal appointments? Today, so many women work, and more than just mopping floors. That’s when my idea was born.
I quickly sketched a double breasted coat which I thought would look very professional, and what a princess today would wear – anywhere from a charity event, to picking up her children from school. I also chose to make a coat because I wanted to challenge myself to make something I have never done before. In previous years, I have sewn three dresses. This was by far one of the hardest pieces I have ever done! On my first day of class, I went through the fabric isles, and found a woven cotton blend fabric, light blue polyester lining, and navy buttons. White is often a sign of purity, and blue represents loyalty and sincerity. The navy blue buttons are a sign of royalty, and once unbuttoned, the lining is the iconic light blue. As I mentioned before, Cinderella never forgot about her past, and always keeps it a part of her, and therefore, I purposely put light blue on the inside because it reflects her continuous hard working, kind, and patient qualities.
During my second and third classes, I cut out all my patterns, and by the fourth class I began sewing a muslin, the “prototype” of the coat. Finally, by my fifth class, I began to sew the thirty pieces together. I really wanted to take my time with this piece because I wanted it to truly be royalty worthy! It was extremely difficult to work with the fabric, as it was always fraying, and it was extremely easy for the creamy fabric to get dirty. It took about nine weeks until my coat began looking like a coat. Finally, after 12 weeks of tedious work, I completed my coat. I still had two steps to go, the judging and the fashion show. At the judging, similar to Project Runway, there are three judges each with a background in the fashion industry who decide what place you will receive. This year, we had a fashion designer who made dance outfits, an assistant director at Coach, and another designer who had her own bridal wear line. They ask you a series of questions, as you present your garment and discuss your design board (featured two images above).
Five days after the judging, there was the fashion show. Thirty girls walk the runway to demonstrate their garment, as the head of Project Fabricland talks about your inspiration. It is extremely interesting to see how everyone translated their fairytale to a garment after a lot of hard work. This year, I was lucky to receive second place!
Top left: My nonna and me. Bottom left: My mom and me.
This Friday, I went to my doctor’s office to see the results of my food sensitivity test of 200 foods. It came in severe intolerance to foods such as celery, cucumber, brussel sprouts, plums, and kale – all which seem very healthy, but apparently not for me. Among the long list of my other moderate to mild intolerances were things like cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, millet, oats, white potato, olives, grapes, basil, corn, maple sugar – the basis of my cooking and baking. When I first glanced at the list, I thought that eliminating these foods was going to be fairly easy. However, I later realized how much of these foods I was actually eating: the olive oil and vinegar of my kale salad, the square of dark chocolate after dinner, potato starch (the binder of all my desserts). At fourteen years old, I cannot have any dairy or gluten, and after leaving that doctor’s office, I was quite upset. When we got home, my mother and I scavenged through our pantry and refrigerator, disappointed to find my intolerances in the ingredient lists. So this morning, I was extremely determined that these restrictions will not limit the tastiness of the food I make, nor take away my love of food, despite it taking away half my ingredient list!
For those of us who haven’t gotten the chance to give our mother anything but a card, it is never late to gift your mother with dose of health! And, easy thing is, you probably already have these ingredients in your home. Today, I made a homemade makeup remover that will ensure everyone’s skin is nice and glowy!
The truth is: makeup removers aren’t as simple as you think they are. Take the trusted brand L’oreal for example – they advertise themselves as the “skin experts”. Meanwhile, when you take a look at the ingredients you’ll notice that you’ll have problems pronouncing some ingredients.
Methylparaben – This paraben can be an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system is several glands that make hormones which controls metabolism, growth, tissue function, sleep, and more.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate – A cheap ingredient that companies use to make their product foam. It can be extremely irritating, as it denatures skin proteins, making one’s skin dry. It is also found in fabric glue! Since our skin is permeable, SLES also gets into our body system, it can get our organs toxic.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about those strange ingredients! This makeup remover is only two ingredients, and works even better than the store bought type. It doesn’t strip you of any moisture, and it leaves your face feeling softer and healthier than before. Let’s take a look at the ingredients:
Witch hazel is an astringent, and therefore minimizes the appearance of pores. It also can reduce the inflammation of a blemish. Coconut oil heals the skin with it’s antioxidants, and it’s antibacterial properties balance out anything that may cause skin irritations. Plus, it has Omega 3! If you decide to use the frankincense essential oil, it is wonderful for reducing acne, the appearance of large pores, and has anti-aging properties.
Your mom will surely enjoy the product (especially since it’s made by you, from scratch), and appreciate being one step closer to non toxic living!
It’s up to you to decide – chemical filled makeup remover or a natural, two ingredient makeup remover?
Pizza is such dairy-ful and glutinous food, that it is almost impossible for a person who eats sans dairy and gluten to enjoy it! Luckily, this is the chance for all of you to try out this delicious pesto ricotta pizza!
Contrary to what most people think, delicious pesto can be made without cheese. All you need is fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, garlic, and pepper – really easy! You don’t even need a recipe. I do my pesto by eye. I recommend starting with pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and two handfuls of clean, dry, basil leaves. Taste your pine nuts before to test for sweetness; this gives you a better idea of how much salt and olive oil you will use. If your pine nuts are very sweet, you might need to use more olive oil because it will help with the creamy texture in place of the nuts. Continue to add more basil, and taste along the way for the perfect balance of all ingredients. One of the perks of making your own pesto is that you can make it as creamy and blended as you want, or add more pepper or garlic – whatever way you wish!
Without the cheese, pesto is actually a healthy option for sauces. Basil works to fight inflammation, and is a good source of Vitamin A, a vitamin that supports bone growth and immune system. Pine nuts boosts energy – many hikers pack this on their trips because it is extremely filling, and light to carry. Healthy + delicious is always a good idea!
I use Kite Hill Artisanal Ricotta, which tastes exactly like ricotta! Plus, it is very simple – it only has four ingredients: almond milk, salt, enzymes, cultures. All you have to do is put some dollops of ricotta 5-7 minutes before taking the pizza out.
After going to Kesté, which is the best restaurant for gluten free pizza, I learned that they use Caputo’s Fiore Glut flour. So, for the crust of this pizza, I used their flour and recipe:
1kg bag of Caputo’s Fiore Glut flour
27 oz warm water
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 tbsp salt
3g baking soda
Mix the dough by hand. Let rest for 10 mins. Refrigerate dough for 2-3 hours. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Preheat oven 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a pan with olive oil, and spread a piece of dough with floured hands. Add condiments (don’t if using ricotta). Bake for 20 mins (add ricotta 5-7 minutes before taking the pizza out).
When the annual Café Cultural, at my brother’s school came up, we were delighted to share our Italian heritage with the traditional Italian savoiardo. Savoiardi are an Italian dessert that are similar to Lady Fingers, but since they are Italian, they are double in size. As it turns out, I was very lucky to have used my Sicilian great grandmother’s recipe. In Italy, people will usually buy savoiardi, and since it is a dry sponge-like cookie, Italians will dunk it with their coffee for breakfast. My mother and grandmother tell me that my great grandmother would actually make her own savoiardi, and as a treat, would make it for her children and grandchildren. When she came to America, her original recipe went from “strutto” (lard) to Crisco (instead I used Spectrum’s Organic Shortening).
Savoiardi are extremely easy to make and require few ingredients – eggs, all purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, sugar, baking powder, shortening, vanilla extract, and lemon zest/juice. As I mentioned before, they’re dry and lemony, and taste just like they were from Italy! They’re topped with granulated sugar, which adds a crunch.
I initially was going to pipe the savoiardi batter, but decided not to, and do it the rustic way that my great grandmother would have done.
Method: Fill a heaping spoonful of the batter. On the greased or parchment lined pan, spoon out some of the batter with your finger in an up and down motion while sliding the spoon the opposite direction.
The savoiardi end up looking slightly different each time, but that’s the beauty of it!
The children at my brother’s school event, Café Cultural loved it, and you will too!